Tag Archives: Ken Hodge

Pastrnak scores hat trick as B’s light up Habs, 8-1

Eight is great and eight is the number of goals the Boston Bruins scored en route to their, 8-1, victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

Oh and by the way, David Pastrnak had a hat trick.

Jaroslav Halak (5-1-3 record, 2.40 goals against average, .930 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Canadiens starter, Carey Price (10-7-3, 3.09 GAA, .900 SV% in 20 games played) turned aside six out of ten shots faced for a .545 SV% before being replaced by Keith Kinkaid (1-1-2, 4.29 GAA, .877 SV% in five games played) in the loss.

Kinkaid made ten saves on 13 shots against (.769 SV%) for no decision.

Boston improved to 16-3-5 (37 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division– in command of 1st place of not just the division, but 1st place in the entire league by virtue of holding a game-in-hand over the Washington Capitals.

Montreal, meanwhile, fell to 11-8-5 (27 points) on the season and stuck in 3rd in the Atlantic.

The Bruins extended their current winning streak to four games and are now 7-3-1 on the road this season.

They’re now also 10-0-2 when leading after two periods, 11-1-0 when leading after one period and 12-2-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.

Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) remained out of the lineup for Boston with Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) joining the long list of injured Bruins for at least the next two games (Tuesday night in Montreal, Wednesday night in Ottawa).

As a result of Bergeron and Ritchie’s injuries, Boston recalled Brendan Gaunce and Jack Studnicka from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.

Gaunce, 25, has six goals and five assists (11 points) in 14 games with Providence this season and signed with Boston on July 1, 2019 as a free agent after spending 2015-19 with the Vancouver Canucks organization.

Studnicka, 20, leads Providence in scoring with nine goals and nine assists (18 points), as well as a plus-seven rating in 21 games with the “Baby Bruins” this season. The 6’2″, 175-pound center was drafted by Boston in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

He made his NHL debut Tuesday night in Montreal, joining Cameron Hughes as the only other Bruin to make their NHL debuts this season.

Par Lindholm returned to action after missing the last game while resting up after sustaining a cut in last Thursday’s, 3-2, win over the Buffalo Sabres.

With Bergeron and Ritchie out, Bruce Cassidy made some adjustments to his lineup, starting Studnicka as the second line center with Jake DeBrusk on his left wing and Charlie Coyle on his right wing.

David Krejci, in the meantime, was promoted to the first line center role with Brad Marchand and Pastrnak in their usual roles.

Sean Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen as his wingers, while Lindholm centered the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner.

Cassidy made one change to his defense, replacing Steven Kampfer with Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing after keeping Kampfer fresh while in his role as the seventh defender for the B’s.

Gaunce and Kampfer served as healthy scratches for the Bruins on Tuesday.

Early in the opening frame, Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher tripped up Pastrnak while trailing the Boston forward behind his own net and was sent to the penalty box at 6:10 of the first period.

Krejci sent Kuraly deep into the offensive zone on the ensuing power play, whereby Kuraly connected DeBrusk with a bump pass as DeBrusk (5) crashed the slot and sent a shot into the back of the twine to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead on a power play goal.

Kuraly (4) and Krejci (12) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 8:03.

The Canadiens responded with a goal of their own a little over a few minutes later on a three-on-two rush up the ice that left Shea Weber (8) wide open for a quick one-timer that beat Halak’s blocker side at 12:41.

Gallagher (9) and Tomas Tatar (14) had the assists on Weber’s goal, tying the game, 1-1, midway through the first period.

The score wasn’t tied for long before Nate Thompson “tripped” Clifton at 13:56 and was assessed an infraction for what appeared to be a phantom call.

Boston went on the power play for the second time of the night and quickly converted on the skater advantage with a trademark one-timer blast from Pastrnak (21) at 14:24.

Coyle (8) and Marchand (24) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s first goal of the night as the B’s regained the lead, 2-1.

Eight seconds later, Charlie McAvoy was penalized for interference against Nick Suzuki at 14:32, presenting Montreal with their first power play of the night.

The Habs did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

With less than a minute remaining in the first period, Marchand (17) snagged a loose puck that floated off of Coyle’s stick while the Bruins forward attempted a wraparound, then elevated a backhand shot over Price while the Canadiens goaltender dove in effort to make a save.

As a result, Coyle (9) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal at 19:23 and the Bruins led, 3-1, entering the first intermission.

The goal marked Marchand’s 600th NHL point– becoming the 11th player in Bruins franchise history to record 600 points in a B’s sweater, joining Terry O’Reilly, Krejci, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Bergeron, Bobby Orr, Rick Middleton, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and Ray Bourque (per Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub).

Marchand’s also just the 4th Bruins player in the last 45 years to record his 40th point in 24 games or fewer, joining Adam Oates (24 games played in 1992-93), Esposito (22 GP in 1974-75) and Orr (21 GP in 1974-75).

After one period in Montreal, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 13-8, in shots on net.

The B’s led in blocked shots (6-5) and giveaways (11-8), while the Habs led in hits (14-8) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

Both teams had three takeaways aside.

The Canadiens were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 entering the second period.

Pastrnak (22) entered the attacking zone off the draw, deked past a Montreal defender and sniped a shot over Price’s blocker on the short side to give Boston a three-goal lead eight seconds into the second period.

Marchand (25) and Zdeno Chara (7) had the assists on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins led, 4-1.

Boston added another goal to their immense lead when Bjork (4) capitalized on a breakaway, sending a shot into the twine past Price’s glove side to make it, 5-1, for Boston at 1:10 of the second period.

Kuraly (5) had the only assist on the goal.

The Bruins had a pair of goals in a span of 62 seconds to chase Price out of the crease as Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, replaced his starter with Kinkaid after Bjork made it, 5-1.

Pastrnak (23) finalized his hat trick less than halfway through the game with a shot that beat Kinkaid at 9:06 of the second period– scoring his 2nd hat trick of the season and 6th of his career.

Brandon Carlo (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s hat trick goal as Boston made it, 6-1, in Montreal.

The 23-year-old right winger for the Bruins, Pastrnak, leads the NHL with 23 goals in 24 team games– the most by any player within 25 team games since the 2005-06 season, when Simon Gagne had 23 goals through this point in the season with the Philadelphia Flyers.

A few minutes later, Clifton caught Tatar with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 12:43, but the Habs didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of play at Bell Centre, the Bruins led, 6-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Canadiens, 27-15, in shots on goal.

Montreal held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone (14-7) and led in hits (23-15), while Boston had the advantage in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (18-16) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Both teams had six takeaways aside, while the Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were still 2/2 on the skater advantage (only one penalty was called in the second period and it was against Boston).

Almost midway through the final frame of regulation, Kuraly worked the puck to Torey Krug as Krug broke into the zone heading for the net, before dropping a pass back to Coyle (5) for the one-timer from the slot that beat Kinkaid to make it, 7-1, for Boston.

Krug (14) and Kuraly (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal at 8:26 of the third period.

Midway through the third, Studnicka reacted to a cross check from Max Domi and the two were sent to the box– Studnicka for rouding and Domi for cross checking at 15:38.

Just 20 seconds after both teams resumed full strength action, Studnicka sent a pass from the trapezoid to Heinen in the slot, whereby Heinen (5) one-timed a shot past Kinkaid.

Studnicka (1) collected the primary assist and his first career NHL point– in his first career game, nonetheless– and Krug (15) tallied the secondary assist on Heinen’s goal as the Bruins led, 8-1, at 17:58.

At the final horn, Boston had finished off Montreal, 8-1, in their first eight-goal game at Bell Centre since Oct. 28, 1998 (a, 9-2, win), as well as their first eight-goal game against the Habs in general since Feb. 9, 2011 (an, 8-6, win at TD Garden).

The Canadiens finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-24)– including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone– and in hits (34-19).

The B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-12) and giveaways (24-18), while both teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.

Montreal finished the night 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/2 on the power play.

The last time a Bruin scored a hat trick in Montreal was on Nov. 30, 1987, when Steve Kasper notched three goals in a, 6-4, loss at Montreal Forum.

Boston finishes their quick two-game road trip (1-0-0) with a Wednesday night matchup in Ottawa against the Senators after traveling by train from Montreal overnight on Tuesday.

The B’s return home after completing games in back-to-back nights with a Black Friday matinee against the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 2019 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown.

Boston will debut their new third jersey in Friday’s matchup.

Nordstrom lifts B’s over Pens in OT, 2-1

Joakim Nordstrom scored the game-winning goal in overtime Friday night at TD Garden almost two minutes into the extra period on a slap-pass turned redirection for the 2-1 Boston Bruins victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jaroslav Halak (8-2-2, .939 save percentage, 1.98 goals against average in 14 games played) made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 SV% in 61:57 time on ice for the win for Boston, while Tristan Jarry (0-0-1, 1.94 GAA in one GP) made his season debut and stopped 35 out of 37 shots faced for a .946 SV% in the loss.

Boston improved to 14-7-1-3 all-time in 26 games on Black Friday since the club played their first game on Black Friday in 1990.

The B’s improved to a 12-6-4 record (28 points) on the season and remained 4th in the Atlantic Division with the win, while the Pens fell to 8-8-5 on the season (21 points) and remain in 8th place in the Metropolitan Division with starting goaltender, Matt Murray, back on the injured reserve.

Pittsburgh is tied with the New Jersey Devils in points for 7th in their division, but trails in the tiebreaker of regulation-plus-overtime wins by one (New Jersey has nine, Pittsburgh has eight), heading back home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

John Moore returned to the lineup on the blue line for the Bruins on Friday after missing the last three games with a lower body injury, while Bruce Cassidy inserted Colby Cave into the lineup centering the third line alongside Nordstrom and Noel Acciari.

In addition to Brandon Carlo (upper body), Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion), Anders Bjork and Steven Kampfer joined were out of the lineup as healthy scratches.

Cassidy indicated before Friday night’s matchup that it is unlikely McAvoy, Vaakanainen or Carlo may rejoin the lineup on the upcoming two-game road trip starting Saturday night in Montreal against the Canadiens.

With Halak getting the start (and win) against the Penguins on Friday, Tuukka Rask will tend the net on Saturday against the Habs.

Unknown-7

Cassidy adjusted his top-two lines with Cave in the lineup at center on the third line, by promoting Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to the first line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

David Krejci started the night at center on the second line between Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk.

With Moore back on defense, Matt Grzelcyk remained on the first pair with Kevan Miller and Torey Krug suited up alongside Moore. Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton rounded out the remaining defensive pair.

A back and forth goaltender battle resulted in no goals allowed by either club in the first period. Both teams played aggressively, but neither went over the line as no penalties were called in the opening frame, as well.

After one period, the game was still tied, 0-0, with the Bruins outshooting the Penguins, 12-9. Pittsburgh had the advantage in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (9-3), giveaways (6-2) and face-off win percentage (63-38) entering the first intermission, while Boston led in hits (10-7).

Coming out of the dressing room for the second period, the Pens upped the ante with some tilted action in their attacking zone, leaving the Bruins trailing behind the play.

Krejci tripped up Juuso Riikola at 5:05 of the middle frame and gave Pittsburgh their first power play of the night.

A little over a minute later, while working the puck around the offensive zone on the skater advantage, Evgeni Malkin (9) blasted a one-timed slap shot past Halak to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

pittsburgh_penguins_logo

Malkin’s power play goal was assisted by Kris Letang (11) and Phil Kessel (16) at 6:09.

Moments later, the B’s responded with a give-and-go of their own as DeBrusk (9) carried the puck into the offensive zone, sent it to Krejci and received the drop pass back for the connection on a one-timer slap shot of his own to tie the game, 1-1.

Krejci (15) and Miller (2) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 13:40 of the second period.

With the goal, DeBrusk now has eight points (six goals, two assists) in his last nine games and with an assist on the goal, Krejci tied Peter McNab for 11th overall on the franchise’s all-time points list with 587 career points in a Bruins sweater.

Bergeron ranks 7th (760 points with Boston), Ken Hodge is 8th (674 points), Terry O’Reilly is 9th (606 points) and Cam Neely is 10th on the list with 590 points in Boston.

David Backes thought he had the go-ahead-goal in the second period, but referee Wes McCauley deemed it otherwise as the puck appeared trapped between Jarry’s leg pad and the inside of the net hidden from the naked eye.

Upon video review, the call on the ice was confirmed– no goal.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins and Penguins were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard and, 25-25, in shots on goal (with Pittsburgh outshooting Boston, 16-13, in the second period alone).

Boston held an advantage in blocked shots (11-10), hits (20-17) and face-off win% (53-48) heading into the second intermission, while the Pens led in takeaways (15-6) and giveaways (10-4). Pittsburgh was 1/1 on the power play and the B’s had yet to see the skater advantage on the night.

Miller sent the puck clear over the glass midway through the third period and gave the Penguins their second power play opportunity of the night with an automatic delay of game infraction at 10:41.

The Penguins did not convert on the ensuing power play and the Bruins managed to kill off Miller’s minor penalty.

After regulation, Pittsburgh was leading in shots on goal, 36-35, having outshot Boston, 11-10, in the third period alone. The game was still tied, 1-1, and the Bruins led in blocked shots (15-14), as well as hits (27-24). Meanwhile, the Penguins held onto the advantage in takeaways (19-9), giveaways (15-6) and face-off win% (56-44).

Pittsburgh was 1/2 on the power play after 60 minutes and the Bruins did not get a chance on the skater advantage in Friday night’s matchup.

After surviving an onslaught by the Penguins in overtime, the Bruins managed just enough puck control in the attacking zone for Pastrnak to send a cross-ice pass over to Krug for the slap-pass intentionally wide of the goal where Nordstrom (4) was standing for the redirection pass Jarry.

Nordstrom’s goal at 1:57 of the overtime period, secured the 2-1 victory for Boston and was assisted by Krug (7) and Pastrnak (9).

Boston improved to 2-4 in overtime on the season with the win and finished the night tied in shots on goal with Pittsburgh, 37-37, despite leading in shots on goal in overtime, 2-1.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (16-14), and hits (28-25) after the final horn, while the Pens held onto the lead in giveaways (16-6) and face-off win% (56-44). Pittsburgh finished the night 1/2 on the power play.

Boston begins a two-game road trip after Friday night’s home game against the Penguins, swinging through Montreal on Saturday and Toronto on Monday, Nov. 26th before returning home for a Thursday night matchup with the N.Y. Islanders on Nov. 29th in which the Bruins will retire Rick Middleton’s No. 16 sweater before the game.

DTFR Overtime: Just Killing Prime

On the most recent episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, @connorzkeith expressed the sentiment that the Boston Bruins have been wasting the prime of their core group of players– not including David Pastrnak, or really anyone since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft currently on the roster.

Rather, Connor suggested that the Bruins were once a dominant team of the early 2010s with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask that’s still very much left intact from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but that they’ve been wasting the arc of the aforementioned players’s prime.

Luckily, Down the Frozen River has an in-house Boston historian and I am here to set the record straight. This is DTFR Overtime and what I’ve thought about after recording the last podcast.


Unknown-7

Hockey is a game of inches and odd puck bounces. It’s a collective game of skill with an over-reliance on luck. Whatever you believe, you better believe in the Hockey Gods. It’s only fate, destiny and just a game at the end of the day, right?

Wrong.

The business of hockey has played a huge part in impacting the game of hockey as we know it– impacting teams and how rosters are constructed, directly through the introduction of a salary cap as of the last full-season lockout in 2004-2005 and indirectly, through many other external factors (family, injuries, et cetera).

It was because of league expansion in the 1970s and because of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) that Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the Bruins didn’t nail down a dynasty. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens also played a part in it in 1971, 1977 and 1978, but the B’s lost star goaltender, Gerry Cheevers, to the Cleveland Crusaders of WHA from 1972 through 1976– right after winning the Cup in 1972 and during Boston’s appearance and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.

Cheevers alone wasn’t the only difference maker in a Bruins uniform that left the black and gold for the higher paying WHA.

Sanderson jettisoned Boston for the Philadelphia Blazers in the summer of ’72 for a $2.600 million contract that made him the highest paid athlete in the world at the time, though he went on to only play in eight games with the Blazers due to injury and returned to Boston after the WHA’s 1972-1973 season on a $1 million deal. From 1972 through 1974 with the Bruins, Sanderson only played 54 out of 156 games and was sent down to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League before being traded to the New York Rangers in June 1974.

John “Pie” McKenzie, a gifted point scorer known by his unconventional nickname left the Bruins for the WHA’s Blazers as a player-coach after the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and never returned to the NHL. McKenzie finished his playing days with the New England Whalers in 1979.

In the 1980s and early 90s, injuries and the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers as a top team in the National Hockey League plagued the primes of Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Cam Neely and the Big Bad Bruins.

Boston lost the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals to the Oilers. Boston lost the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston Garden itself was closed in 1995– and then Boston missed the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 30 years.

Good teams aren’t meant to remain on top forever.

There’s a reason why the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports.

Claude Julien, the winningest coach (419 wins) in Bruins franchise history– having surpassed Art Ross‘s 387 wins mark with the team during his tenure in Boston– led the black and gold to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and one President’s Trophy (just the second in franchise history during the 2013-2014 campaign).

In 2011, the Bruins rode the backs of Nathan Horton, Marchand and Tim Thomas‘s insanity in goal. In 2013, a more experienced Boston team rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and charged all the way to a six game series battle with the Chicago Blackhawks that ultimately ended in defeat.

Thomas was no longer part of the story after 2012. Rask took over the reigns and never looked back. Jaromir Jagr came and went in a largely forgettable time in the spoked-B.

But the Bruins could skate with the best. Until they missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

In the Salary Cap Era, teams are built up and ripped to shreds by massive longterm contracts and dollars being improperly allocated throughout the roster.

Peter Chiarelli got the Bruins in a salary cap hell, what with their fourth line center, Chris Kelly, making $3.000 million in his final years as a Bruin. In the broad scope of things, that was the least of Chiarelli’s mismanagement that ultimately ended his time in Boston. Neither the Tyler Seguin trade nor the Johnny Boychuk trade alone could be what led to the Bruins going from a top team deep in every roster spot to a team outside the playoff picture looking in with some mediocre placeholders.

Brett Connolly and Max Talbot didn’t yield the same results in Chiarelli’s last season with the Bruins– tangible or intangible– than any of the bottom-six forwards (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Kelly and Michael Ryder) provided for the 2011.

Just one year removed from a President’s Trophy season that ended with an early First Round exit to Montreal, the Bruins found themselves on the verge of an uncomfortable position that they hadn’t been in since missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. They went on to miss the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

So the Bruins did the only thing they’ve ever known. They reset themselves while still carrying a core group of players.

In the 70s, Boston rebuilt themselves around Orr, Esposito and friends when Sanderson left (then returned and left again via trade), Cheevers departed and McKenzie stormed off to the WHA. They drafted Terry O’Reilly in 1971, Stan Johnathan in 1975 and acquired Peter McNab from the Buffalo Sabres after the 1975 Stanley Cup Final.

The new identity Bruins flipped Esposito along with Carol Vadnais during the 1975-76 season to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi and still had Orr until his departure via free agency in 1976.

Boston still had Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge and Don Marcotte as key aspects of their 70s rosters.

They could have dismantled a team that won two Stanley Cups (and should have won more, if it weren’t for the WHA) after the franchise’s slow start in 1975. They didn’t.

Hockey has never been kind to good teams with the right players at what seems like it’s the right time (just ask last year’s Washington Capitals). But that’s the nature of the sport. No matter how much of a powerhouse you build– with or without a salary cap, with or without expansion or injuries– you can’t control the way the puck bounces.

Some players stick around in the league for long enough to become seasoned veterans of the NHL and never sniff a Stanley Cup Final appearance, let alone the postseason. It took Ron Hainsey until just last year with the Penguins to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and it took Bourque and Dave Andreychuk at least a couple of decades each to win it all.

Just because Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask only have a 2011 Stanley Cup championship together doesn’t mean they’ve been wasting their time, killing the prime of their careers.

For Boston, they ended a 39-year Stanley Cup-less drought.

They’ve already won once more than thousands of others who were lucky enough to make it to the NHL.

And they’ve forever cemented themselves in the history of the franchise, as well as the City of Boston as adopted sons and representatives of the Hub everywhere they go and in everything they do related to the sport or not.

Fans want rings and that’s one thing, but to say they’ve wasted their primes is another. They’ve contributed so much on and off the ice for the youth movement once again creeping up on the Bruins. Pastrnak is destined for stardom. Charlie McAvoy is an apprentice to Chara as Bourque was to Park in 1979.

Even Kevan Miller‘s found a bit of a resurgence in his offensive game, going end-to-end to throw the puck in front of the net to find Danton Heinen like Orr did with anyone.

The torch gets passed on. We’re all in for the ride.

And you pray to the Hockey Gods that they’ll let you win at least once.

March 5- Day 137- Sharks live in the Wild, not pools

For the second day in a row, somebody else has had to take the Game of the Day duties, since Connor Keith is out of town. Here goes nothing.

Sundays are perfect for sitting and watching hockey all day and if you don’t have anything to do from mid-afternoon through the rest of the night, then today’s schedule is just for you.

Sunday’s action begins in Calgary, Alberta as the New York Islanders pay their annual visit to the Calgary Flames at 4 p.m. Buffalo at Pittsburgh (NHLN/ROOT/MSG-B) kicks off at 5 p.m. As things get underway at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, newly acquired defenseman Kyle Quincey and the Columbus Blue Jackets face off against now former Blue Jacket defenseman Dalton Prout and the New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.

An hour later the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks visit the 2nd place in the Central Division Minnesota Wild. At 8 p.m. the Vancouver Canucks face former teammate Ryan Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks in southern California as the St. Louis Blues square off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on NBCSN.

Half an hour later, the evening’s final game kicks off in Glendale, Arizona with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Arizona Coyotes. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Buffalo at Pittsburgh: In a rematch of the 2008 Winter Classic, the Sabres and head coach Dan Bylsma pay a visit to Bylsma’s former club as Buffalo looks to climb from being five points out of a wild card spot in the Atlantic Division.
  • Columbus at New Jersey: Kyle Quincey and Dalton Prout were traded for each other, so which team made the better move? Obviously we’ll find out after whoever wins this game.
  • San Jose at Minnesota: Two division leaders in the Western Conference do battle as the Wild look to compete with the Washington Capitals in this season’s President’s Trophy race. Okay, fine, Minnesota was on top of the Central Division until last night.
  • St. Louis at Colorado: Some professional team from St. Louis is playing some bantam team from Colorado (only kidding). Honestly, I’m just throwing this one on here in case your team’s not playing tonight and you want to watch out of market hockey on NBCSN.

Since I was informed I would be writing today’s Game of the Day matchup preview, the Minnesota Wild were on top of the Central Division as the San Jose Sharks continued to dominate the Pacific Division and everything seemed to be perfectly aligning for my Daily Matchup debut– that is until the Chicago Blackhawks decided to ruin the fun, surpassing the Wild for 1st in the Central Division with their 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators Saturday night.

However! First place is still on the line for both teams in the San Jose Sharks at Minnesota Wild matchup (technically). Minnesota can reclaim the Central Division lead with a win at home and San Jose can do everything to keep the Wild out of first place in the Central while putting more separation between themselves and the Edmonton Oilers for first in the Pacific Division.

Stay with me here.

UnknownThe Sharks enter Xcel Energy Center on a three game winning streak with a 38-18-7 record through 63 games played (good enough for 83 points on the year), as the Wild enter Sunday night coming off of a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and a 41-15-6 record after 62 games played and 88 points on the season.

Despite losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year, San Jose is still a hot team on a run, similar to how the Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to shrug off their 2015 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Blackhawks. The Sharks aren’t in the hunt for the President’s Trophy– but the Wild are, more on that in a second– yet they’re quietly peaking at the right time.

Though quietly might not be the right term.

Winners of four out of their last five games, in which they’ve outscored their opponents 15-6 in that span, San Jose is witnessing quite the team effort in the midst of a Hart Trophy worthy season from defenseman Brent Burns (27-40-67 totals in 63 games). Only Sharks captain Joe Pavelski ranks in the top-50 in scoring in the NHL tied for 21st in the league with 55 points alongside Auston Matthews (TOR), Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Leon Draisaitl (EDM) and Victor Hedman (TB).

Despite trailing off in goals this season, Joe Thornton’s 35 assists contribute to the overall +29 goal differential for the team in teal.

Martin Jones (30-15-6 on the season in 52 GP) has stood tall in goal for the second straight year, notching 30 wins thus far (tied for 5th in the league with Boston’s Tuukka Rask). Jones’s .917 save percentage ranks 17th (tied with Florida’s Roberto Luongo) among active goalies with at least 25 games played this season, as his 2.28 goals against average is good enough to be tied for 9th in the league with Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray (same parameters as before, active goalies with at least 25 games played).

Unknown-2Minnesota enters Sunday with a 41-15-6 record through 62 games played (good enough for 88 points) and is 3-2-0 in their last five games, having outscored their opponents 19-17 during that time.

Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has led his team within reach of the President’s Trophy as the team with the best record in the league at the end of the regular season, trailing one point behind the Blackhawks with three games in hand and seven points behind the Washington Capitals with two games in hand.

The State of Hockey’s leading scorer, center Mikael Granlund, ranks 12th in the league with 21-38-59 totals in 62 games played. Mikko Koivu (48 points), Nino Niederreiter (46 points) and Eric Staal (46 points) are also in the top-50 scorers in the league among active skaters.

Depth scoring has been a strong suit of an otherwise solely superstar-less driven scoring team as the Wild have racked up a +61 goal differential. Devan Dubnyk (34-12-3 on the season in 49 GP) ranks 1st in the league in save percentage with a .933 and 2nd in GAA with a 2.03 among active goalies with at least 25 games played this season. Dubnyk’s underrated play in net is sure to land him a Vezina Trophy this season.

The Sharks are 18-11-3 on the road, including their most recent 4-1 win in Vancouver against the Canucks on February 25th. Meanwhile, the Wild are 22-8-1 on home ice, including their 5-4 victory in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on February 27th.

Minnesota topped San Jose in their previous meeting by a score of 5-4 on January 5th. The two teams will do battle once again on March 21st in what could be a season series tiebreaker.

Both teams are on a tear on offense in the last couple of weeks, however, Sunday night could be a different story with Dubnyk and Jones in net (so long as they’re the starters). Additionally, the Sharks have a slight edge in defense, having allowed one fewer goal than the Wild this season (147 goals against for SJ, compared to 148 GA for MIN).

I don’t know what the odds in Vegas are saying, but my money’s on San Jose pulling off a win with a slim margin of victory over Minnesota. The Wild beat the Sharks on road ice in January, so it’s only fair that San Jose wins one in Minnesota, right?

Hockey Birthday

Milt Schmidt (1918- January 4, 2017)– The Ultimate Bruin played all of his career (1936-1955) with Boston, coached in Boston (1954-1966) and was even the general manager (1967-1972) for the Bruins, winning two Stanley Cups as a player in 1939 and 1941, as well as two Stanley Cups as a GM in 1970 and 1972 for a total of four Cups in his life in hockey. Schmidt also coached the Washington Capitals in their first couple of seasons in existence (1974-1976), though they missed the playoffs both years.Hockey Birthday

Schmidt helped find Bobby Orr and pulled off the blockbuster trade of Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Black Hawks as a general manager and took three years off from his playing career (in its prime!) from 1942-1945 to serve in World War II for the Royal Canadian Air Force alongside his Kraut Line teammates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer.

Sadly, the Kitchner, Ontario native passed away in January at 98-years-old as the last member of the inaugural (1936-1937) American Hockey League (AHL) season.

He passed on the reigns of the oldest living former NHL player to John “Chick” Webster, 96, who made his NHL debut in the 1949-1950 season with the New York Rangers, appearing in 14 games and racking up four penalty minutes in his short NHL career.

Other Birthdays

Bill Thoms (1910-1964), Harry Pidhirny (1928-2010), Ken Yackel (1932-1991), Dale Anderson (1932-2015), Pat Hannigan (1936-2007), Bob Richer (1951-), Paul Gardner (1956-), Tim Friday (1961-), Anatoli Semenov (1962-), Bob Halkidis (1966-), Matt DelGuidice (1967-), Shjon Podein (1968-), Bryan Berard (1977-), Paul Martin (1981-), Barret Jackman (1981-), Michel Ouellet (1982-)


Saturday night’s DTFR Game of the Day matchup between the host New York Rangers and visiting Montreal Canadiens witnessed a 4-1 victory for the Habs on road ice as Montreal improved to 6-2-0 in the Claude Julien (Part Deux).

Unknown-1Carey Price made 26 saves on 27 shots faced en route to picking up the win at Madison Square Garden, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots against on 35 shots faced in the loss.

Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Canadiens at 12:51 of the first period for his fifteenth goal of the season. Max Pacioretty (26) and Steve Ott (4) picked up assists on Weber’s goal. Montreal went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead in what looked like it would be a goalie battle after all (as Colby wrote about yesterday), as Lundqvist made 10 saves on 11 shots faced and Price turned aside all six shots from the Rangers in the first period.

Despite trailing in shots on goal by five in the first period, New York only trailed in SOG 14-10 in the 2nd period and led in the category 11-10 in the 3rd period.

Artturi Lehkonen (12) scored what would become the game winning goal 8:48 into the 2nd period on a one-timer from one knee on a pass from Phillip Danault (21). Pacioretty (27) picked up the seconday assist.

The Canadiens went up 3-0 nearly ten minutes later in the 2nd period on a goal from Andrew Shaw (10). Shaw’s wraparound goal was assisted by Alex Galchenyuk (21) and Andrei Markov (24).

The lone goal from the Rangers came on a shot from Chris Kreider who notched his 24th goal of the season. Derek Stepan (32) and Mats Zuccarello (33) assisted on Kreider’s goal at 1:44 of the 3rd period. New York cut the lead to two goals, but could not muster enough to do anything further.

New addition to the lineup for Montreal, defenseman Jordie Benn fired home his 3rd goal of the season (and first as a Hab) at 6:58 of the 3rd period. Nathan Beaulieu (21) and Galchenyuk (22) assisted on Benn’s goal.

For more stats on Daily Matchup records, wait for Connor to get back (though I’m having a lot of fun writing this, maybe I’ll steal it from him more often).