Tag Archives: Khudobin

October 21 – Day 18 – Time to right the ship

In the words of Sir Elton John, “Saturday night’s alright for fighting.” If there’s a lyric that better describes hockey, I have yet to hear it.

To take it a step further, Saturday afternoon must not be too bad either, as Nashville visits the New York Rangers (SN) at 12:30 p.m. and Philadelphia hosts Edmonton half an hour later. After the matinees are complete, five contests (Buffalo at Boston, Toronto at Ottawa [CBC/CITY/TVAS], Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, San Jose at the New York Islanders and Los Angeles at Columbus) find their start at the usual time of 7 p.m., followed by Florida at Washington (NBCSN) 30 minutes after. Carolina makes its yearly visit to Dallas at 8 p.m., with Chicago at Arizona waiting an hour before dropping the puck. The stroke of 10 p.m. brings with it the start of Minnesota at Calgary (CBC), half an hour before tonight’s nightcap: St. Louis at Vegas. All times Eastern.

It’s nights like these that are hard to pick just one game to focus on, as there’s a good reason to watch at least half of them. Here’s a few that stick out to me…

  • Buffalo at Boston: Rivalry night in Beantown is always a worthwhile experience.
  • Toronto at Ottawa: Speaking of rivalries, the Battle of Ontario is another good one.
  • Chicago at Arizona: Don’t tell anybody, but D Connor Murphy played his first four NHL seasons with the Coyotes.
  • St. Louis at Vegas: W Chris Thorburn was one of Vegas’ expansion draft selections, but he ended up signing with the Blues instead.

Since we haven’t had the opportunity to feature the Bruins or the Sabres yet this season, what better way to make up for our transgression than by focusing on their rivalry tonight?

 

Let’s just put things simply: both these clubs have much higher aspirations for their seasons than the first two-and-a-half weeks have indicated.

The 1-5-2 Sabres have especially had a tough run of things, as they’re currently riding a two game losing skid after falling in overtime to Vegas on Tuesday and losing outright to Vancouver last night.

Since the Bruins don’t play for a city that starts with a ‘V’, maybe Buffalo has a chance this evening.

Averaging .8 points-per-game after his first two seasons in the NHL, C Jack Eichel was expected to lead the Sabres to one of the best offensive efforts in the league. Instead, Buffalo’s attack has averaged a (t)fourth-worst 2.5 goals-per-game effort, forcing the Sabres to be discussed in the same breath as the likes of Arizona.

Unless we’re talking about logo and sweater designs at a franchise’s debut, it’s rarely good to be compared to the Coyotes.

Though I threw Eichel under the bus, the Sabres’ struggles are certainly no fault of their first line. In fact, if not for the production of Eichel, LW Evander Kane and RW Jason Pominville, Buffalo might as well not have an offense at all. All three are averaging at least 1.13 points-per-game this season and they combine for 12 of the Sabres’ 20 goals. While it is nice to know that one line is capable of producing 60 percent of a team’s offense, I’ll bet the house that Head Coach Phil Housley would love for F Ryan O’Reilly‘s line to find their form sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, little has gone well on the Sabres’ defensive end either. Due at least in part to Buffalo’s 49.9 face-off winning percentage (11th-worst in the league), neither G Chad Johnson nor G Robin Lehner can claim a GAA under three. Lehner has certainly been the superior of the two netminders so far with his .9 save percentage and 3.14 GAA, and he’s likely to be tonight’s starter since Johnson was responsible for last night’s 4-2 loss to the Canucks.

If anything has gone well so far for the Sabres, it’s certainly been their penalty kill. Successfully rejecting 83.3 percent of opposing power plays, Buffalo ties for eighth-best in the NHL. Defensemen Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe have played exceptionally when shorthanded, as both have five shot blocks to their credit in that situation. But there’s an asterisk next to Gorges’ name: he’s hit that total in only four games played as compared to McCabe’s eight.

Alright, that’s enough laying into one team. Time to take on the 3-3-0 Bruins.

There’s little to complain about on the Bruins’ offensive end. Averaging 3.33 goals-per-game, Boston is tied for the ninth-best offense in the NHL. It’s been the LW Brad Marchand show so far this season, as his 4-5-9 totals are easily among the top-25 performances in the league so far.

Then again, that was before C Patrice Bergeron returned to action from his lower body injury. In only one game played against Vancouver on Thursday, the 32-year-old managed one goal and three assists for a four-point night, tying him for sixth-most points on the team with players that have five more games played.

Regarding Bergeron, I have two guesses: (1) he’s one of those guys that’s good at his job, and (2) last season’s not-so-great 53 points could be eclipsed rather easily.

Whether it’s Bergeron or Marchand leading the charge, the Bruins’ power play is one of the most intimidating in the league. Boston has found success on eight-of-27 extra-man opportunities for a fourth-best 29.6 percent success rate, including C David Krejci‘s team-leading four power play points.

Of course, for an offense to be clicking along as well as the Bruins’ has been and the club only have a .500 record, there might be a problem on the other end of the ice.

That problem’s name is G Tuukka Rask. Though he’s certainly been one of, if not the league’s best netminder since his debut in the 2007-’08 season (his .922 career save percentage is tied for best in the NHL since then among goalies with at least 50 starts, and his 2.25 career GAA is second-best in that group), he’s struggled mightily in his four starts to open this campaign, managing an ugly .882 save percentage and 3.3 GAA.

Could it simply be that he’s getting sprayed with pucks every time he takes to the crease? Unfortunately, not really. He’s seen an average of only 25.5 shots-per-game so far this season, which is right in line with the (t)fourth-best 29.2 shots allowed by the Bruins’ defense per game.

It’s a fact Bruins fans may not want to admit, but Rask has only seen his save percentage drop since his .93 performance in the 2013-’14 season, with the lone exception of last year when he matched his .915 effort from the 2015-’16 campaign.

This drop in play began at the same time Rask started seeing 50-60 starts per season, which hearkens back to a statement I’ve made countless times about the Bruins’ goaltender: you can only work a mule so much. He’s been overworked for the past four seasons to the point that his play is suffering. Hopefully with G Anton Khudobin in the picture, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be able to relieve some of the pressure off his starter so he can rediscover his true form before his best playing days are behind him. If not, the Bruins are in a deeper hole than even the most dire of pessimists could have predicted.

Of course, all that writing may have been for naught with Rask currently listed as day-to-day with a concussion after a collision with rookie F Anders Bjork Wednesday. Expect Khudobin and his .927 save percentage to start this evening.

The Sabres are just waiting for a breakout game, but they have yet to earn it. I truly do believe in their offense, but I have concerns about the defense going up against an elite scoring club in Boston. Though the TD Garden hasn’t exactly been friendly to its residents for the past few years, I expect the Bruins to win this game by dominating the scoreboard.


For the second-straight night, the DtFR Game of the Day required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner. This time, it was First Star of the Game W Alex Ovechkin scoring the overtime winner for the Washington Capitals to beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.

Featuring four total goals, the third period was absolutely wild. It was set up by a two-goal second period, as both F Darren Helm and W Andre Burakovsky (D Dmitry Orlov and W Tom Wilson) found goals to set the score at one-all. Helm’s wrist shot at the 4:31 mark of the frame was particularly noteworthy, as it was his first shorthanded goal since April 9, 2015.

Eighty-five seconds after the second intermission ended, the flurry of third period goals began when F Jay Beagle (RW Alex Chiasson) scored a shorthanded wrister to give the Capitals the lead. It was a lead that lasted only 3:59 though, as Second Star F Tomas Tatar (F Dylan Larkin and D Mike Green) leveled the contest with a tip-in. Scoring subsided until Tatar (F Henrik Zetterberg and D Niklas Kronwall) buried his second of the game, a power play snap shot, with 7:15 remaining in regulation to take a 3-2 lead for the Red Wings.

Detroit almost managed to earn the victory, but Larkin’s delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass set up a power play opportunity for the Capitals. Held off the scorecard in his last game played, F T.J. Oshie (Burakovsky and C Evgeny Kuznetsov) was sure to take advantage, scoring his wrister with 61 seconds remaining in regulation to level the game at three-all.

The Red Wings apparently didn’t learn their lesson when Oshie forced overtime. 68 seconds into three-on-three play, D Trevor Daley earned himself a seat in the penalty box for tripping Ovechkin. Ovi didn’t seem to like that very much, as he ended the game only 48 later with a game-winning slap shot from his usual spot in the face-off circle to Third Star G Petr Mrazek‘s right, assisted by C Nicklas Backstrom and D John Carlson.

G Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 34-of-37 shots faced (.919 save percentage), forcing Mrazek to take the overtime loss, saving 37-of-41 (.902).

Not only was this the second-straight overtime game, but it was also a second-straight victory for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Visitors now trail the 10-5-3 home teams by only five points.

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

A dozen games are on the schedule today, so let’s hop right in with our list!

A pair of games (Vancouver at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Columbus [NHLN/SN1]) get the action underway at 2 p.m., followed by seven (Calgary at St. Louis [CITY], Toronto at Buffalo [CBC], Ottawa at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Chicago at Florida [NHLN], Carolina at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders and Arizona at Washington) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck an hour later, followed by Colorado at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. Finally, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Buffalo: Only two more editions of the Battle of the QEW go down this season, and one is tonight.
  • Ottawa at Montréal: Speaking of rivalries, this one is kind of important since it could determine who raises an Atlantic Division banner.
  • Chicago at Florida: For five seasons, Brian Campbell was a member of the Panthers‘ blueline. This offseason, he decided to return to the Windy City.
  • Boston at New York: These clubs are currently tied for the second wildcard, but they won’t be after tonight.
  • San Jose at Nashville: Remember last year’s Western Semifinals? The Predators would probably like to exact some revenge tonight.

Since both the Canadiens and Senators are all but locks to for this year’s postseason, let’s head back to Brooklyn with the Islanders for their wildly important matchup with Boston.

 

The 38-30-6 Bruins have been in the playoff picture – or right outside it – for almost the entire season. A mistimed four-game losing skid (then again, when does a four-game losing skid ever come at an appropriate time?) has felled them to the second of those two categories.

Of course, this is not the first position Boston has lost in the last month. For a long while, the Bruins actually had command of third place in the Atlantic Division, but they ceded that too to a Maple Leafs team that has won seven of its last 10 games.

The main reason for this fall from grace? I’d argue sub-par play in net by 33-20-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s been in net for all four of these contests, and the Bruins have allowed an average of five goals against. In fact, his .842 save percentage and 4.53 GAA from March 16 through last night’s action is the fifth and second-worst efforts in the NHL, respectively, in that time span.

“But Rask is a great goaltender!” said Bruins fans.

And I agree; yes, he is great. He’s also no spring chicken anymore. Rask just celebrated his 30th birthday not too long ago, which makes him older than the average goaltender throughout the 2000s (per Quant Hockey), whether by mean (28.81) or median (28.3).

Whether you’re in the camp of believing Bruce Cassidy needs to play 5-5-1 Anton Khudobin more often or Don Sweeney needs to provide a better backup than a nearly 31-year-old Russian is inconsequential to the fact that Rask needs more breaks. With 59 starts, Rask has played the third-most games in a NHL crease this season, and the other two goalies with more starts are younger than him (though not by much in Cam Talbot‘s case).

Making the exhausted netminder’s demise even more troublesome is that the defense playing in front of him is one of the better – and improving – corps in the league. Over this sour stretch, they’ve allowed only 117 shots to reach his net (29.25 per game), which is barely worse than their 25.6 average allowed per game for the entire season that ranks second-best in the league.

He doesn’t wear the Bruins‘ “C” for nothing. Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that effort with his team-leading 124 shot blocks, followed closely behind by Adam McQuaid‘s 122. Center Patrice Bergeron has also been very impressive on the defensive front, as his 59 takeaways are second-most on the club. Brad Marchand has one more for the squad lead, but he also tops (Or would it be bottoms?) the team in the opposite statistic with his 74 turnovers.

When looking at the season as a whole, Boston usually finds more than enough success on the penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is sixth-best in the league. Of course, this rough patch hasn’t been so kind. The Bruins have allowed seven power play goals against (you guessed it, most in the league in this time-span) for a measly 63.1% kill rate.

One thing that has gone Boston‘s way over the past 10 days has been their power play. Co-led by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner‘s three man-advantage points, as well as David Krejci and David Pastrnak‘s two man-advantage goals, the Bruins have scored on 35.7% of their opponents’ penalties – the best mark in the league in that span. That’s not exactly a surprise though. Boston has been successful on 21.2% of their power plays all year, the eighth-best rate in the league.

First it was the Leafs taking advantage of the Bruins‘ fall from grace. Now it’s the 35-26-12 Islanders, a team riding a two-game winning streak.

This success is a far cry from where New York was before Doug Weight took command of the ship. Former head coach Jack Capuano had only managed a 17-17-8 record – the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Isles have gone on an 18-9-4 run to climb back into the eighth place in the East. In fact, that’s the fifth-best record in the league since Capuano’s firing, better even than teams like Columbus and Nashville.

The main reason for that improvement is New York‘s potent offense. The Islanders have buried 96 goals under Weight, which ties for the fourth-highest total in the league since January 17. Behind that effort is none other than John Tavares, who’s registered 32 of his 64 points on the campaign. Anders Lee also came alive, as he’s registered 13 goals to lead the team during the Weight-era.

Ready to be even more impressed by the Islanders‘ resurgent offense? They do it almost exclusively at even-strength. In fact, New York‘s power play is borderline atrocious, as they only convert 15.8% of their opportunities – the fifth-worst rate in the league.

If recent history is any indicator, it looks like the Bruins are on their way to their fifth-straight loss, as they have yet to beat New York this year in their previous two meetings. The last time these clubs ran into each other was January 16 in Boston. Between Nikolai Kulemin‘s two-goal night (one-sixth of his season total!) and Thomas Greiss‘ 32-save shutout, the Islanders walked out of the TD Garden with a 4-0 victory.

Ironically, that was Capuano’s last game as head coach of the Isles. My, how the story has come full circle.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

Though they might be a little tired from their shootout victory in Pittsburgh last night, I’m inclined to pick the Islanders right now. Something tells me that only one day off is not enough for Rask, and everything seems to be going New York‘s way right now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Wregget (1964-) – Toronto selected this goaltender 45th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Penguins. By the time his career was through, he’d earned a 225-248-53 record and hoisted the 1992 Stanley Cup.
  • Ladislav Benysek (1975-) – This defensemen was selected in the 11th round by Edmonton in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his four-year career in the league with Minnesota. Over 161 games in the NHL, he accumulated only 15 points for a -28 rating.

With their 4-3 shootout victory against Pittsburgh in the DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have improved to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

With six goals in regulation, you’d figure there’d be two a period, right? Not last night. Instead, five were struck in the second frame, and another in the third.

The scoring started 1:54 after beginning the second period when Third Star of the Game Cameron Gaunce (Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel) buried a slap shot for the second goal of his career. 2:54 later, Second Star Brock Nelson (Joshua Ho-Sang and Alan Quine) tied the game at one-all, the score that held until Lee (Bailey and First Star Tavares) scored a wrist shot to give New York the lead 4:30 later. Now it was Pittsburgh‘s turn to pull even, and Sidney Crosby (Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary) was up to the task with 6:19 remaining in the frame. With five seconds remaining before the second intermission, Casey Cizikas (Tavares) found the back of the net to send the Isles to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.

After all that action, the final goal of regulation wasn’t struck until 6:10 remained in regulation. Cullen (Gaunce and Kessel) scored his wrister to tie the game at three-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five minute three-on-three overtime period.

Looks like this one will have to be decided in the shootout. The Pens elected to go second…

  1. …meaning Anthony Beauvillier was up first. He scored on Marc-Andre Fleury, giving New York an early shootout lead.
  2. Kessel had the chance to tie the shootout, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task and made the save.
  3. Weight called Tavares’ number next as if he knew the captain would score him another goal. With a 2-0 shootout lead, the Pens were in a miss-and-lose situation.
  4. Speaking of captains, that’s exactly who took Pittsburgh‘s next shootout attempt. Crosby had better luck than Kessel and scored his shot to keep the Penguins alive.
  5. Andrew Ladd took what proved to be the Islanders‘ final shootout attempt, but was unable to beat Fleury to win the game.
  6. Instead, Halak provided the victory by saving Nick Bonino‘s shot.

Halak saved 37-of-40 shots faced (92.5%) for the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Fleury after he stopped 43-of-46 (93.5%).

It was the second-straight DtFR Game of the Day to be decided by shootout, but the fact that this one was decided by the 80-56-23 visitors gives them a one-point advantage over the road teams in the series.

March 15 – Day 147 – The Flames are red hot

Only four games are on the schedule tonight, so let’s dive right in. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Boston at Calgary (SN). Detroit visits Colorado at 9:30 p.m. and St. Louis at Anaheim (NBCSN), tonight’s nightcap, drops the puck half an hour later. All times eastern.

If it was certain Mark Streit would be available for tonight’s game, I’d be much more inclined to feature the Battle for the Keystone State. But with the injury he sustained Monday night, I’m much more interested in the Bruins‘ visit to the Saddledome.

 

Winners of its past three contests, Boston enters tonight’s game with a 37-26-6 record good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins may not be dominant on either end of the ice, but they play a solid overall game. Specifically, I’m most impressed with a defensive effort that has yielded only 177 goals against, which ties for the 10th-fewest in the NHL.

Of course, that always starts with the goaltender, and Boston has a good one in 33-16-4 Tuukka Rask. Yet even the best goaltenders need a night off every once in a while, and that’s where 4-5-1 Anton Khudobin comes into play. He’s registered a .895 season save percentage and 2.76 GAA, the 56th and 42nd-best marks, respectively, among the 68 goalies with at least five appearances this year.

While neither stats are worth writing home to Russia about (I mean, we need to factor in the price of postage), he’ll be receiving considerable help from his blueline tonight. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 116 short blocks (narrowly beating out Adam McQuaid‘s contributions), the Bruins have allowed only 26.5 shots to reach their goalies’ crease, the second-best rate in the NHL.

That play is especially impressive in light of last season’s performance, which forced Bruins goaltenders to shrug off more than 30 shots-per-game. As rookie Brandon Carlo continues to grow, Boston‘s defense could become one of the stingiest in the league.

Speaking of stingy, that’s exactly what the Bruins‘ top-rated penalty kill is. Thanks in large part to McQuaid’s 32 shorthanded shot blocks, the Bruins escape opponents’ power plays unscathed 86.2% of the time.

Boston is also the proud home of a solid power play. While not as successful as their penalty kill, the Bruins do tie for 10th-best in the league with a power play that finds the back of the net 20.5% of the time. That attack is twin-led by first-unit members Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, both of whom have 20 power play points. Pastrnak also shares the extra-man goal-scoring lead, but this time with Brad Marchand. Both of them have buried the puck eight times on the power play.

In a surprising turn of events since December and January, defense has become the name of the game for the 39-26-4 Flames, who currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division and are easily the hottest team in the league (pun intended). Winners of their past 10 games, they’ve allowed only 183 goals against so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL.

For the second season in a row, 21-13-3 Brian Elliott has righted the ship for another playoff-hopeful club. Although his .91 season save percentage isn’t the best on the team (that belongs to Chad Johnson and his .913), his 2.51 GAA is, and those rank (t)33rd and (t)17th-best in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 18 appearances.

Those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, but they don’t have to be when Elliott plays behind one of the better defensed in the league. Allowing only 28.7 shots to reach his crease per game, Calgary ranks eighth-best in the NHL. That success is due in large part to Mark Giordano, whose 154 shot blocks not only pace the Flames, but are sixth-most in the NHL.

Thanks to Johnson’s incredible night in net (he saved 35-of-36 – 97.2%!), the Flames were able to stave off the Bruins‘ offense for a 2-1 victory when they made their annual visit to Boston on November 25.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [tied for most in the NHL] for 74 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Calgary‘s Giordano (+17 on 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

Calgary is narrowly favored to win tonight’s game by Vegas with a -105 line. I can certainly see why the oddsmakers are concerned, but I also know the Flames have beaten some solid teams over this winning streak. I like the Bruins to win tonight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Calgary can keep the magic going again this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Punch Imlach (1918-1987) – It goes without saying, but a coaching career that features four Stanley Cups, including three in a row from 1962-’64, is probably a good one. Imlach did just that with the Maple Leafs, the team he coached for 12 of his 14 seasons. He completed his career in the 1979-’80 season with a 402-337-150 record.
  • Craig Ludwig (1961-) – Montréal selected this defenseman 61st-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played the first eight years of his career and won his first Stanley Cup. Following a year with the Islanders, he joined the (North) Stars organization in 1991-’92, with whom he played the last eight years of his career  – and won his second Stanley Cup.
  • Darcy Tucker (1975-) – Another Montréal pick, this right wing was selected in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Although drafted by the Canadiens, he actually spent most of his 14-year career with Toronto, where he scored 148 of his 215 career goals.
  • James Reimer (1988-) – Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they selected this goaltender 99th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Sharks at the deadline last year. He now plays in Florida, where he’s earned a 12-12-5 record.

Although the Wild scored two goals in the third period, it wasn’t enough to get past the Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. Washington defended the Verizon Center to a 4-2 victory.

Although both clubs combined for 29 shots in the first period, this game almost reached the first intermission scoreless. The operative word there is almost, as Nate Schmidt (Second Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and First Star Nicklas Backstrom) scored only his second goal of the season with a dozen seconds remaining on the clock to give Washington a one-goal lead.

February 19. 11 games ago. That was the last time Ovechkin scored before tonight’s tally. Assisted by John Carlson and Backstrom, he buried a wrist shot with 5:08 remaining in the second period to double the Caps‘ lead and end his scoreless skid. The game-winner belongs to Evgeny Kuznetsov (Backstrom and Carlson) on a power play wrister 2:16 later that set the score at 3-0.

Whatever Bruce Boudreau said in the dressing room during intermission, it seems Matt Dumba (Mikael Granlund) took it to heart, as he buried a backhanded shot 37 seconds after play resumed to get the Wild on the board. Eric Staal (Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter) followed that four minutes later with a power play wrister to pull Minnesota within a goal, but they couldn’t find another tally. Jay Beagle (Dmitry Orlov) made the Wild‘s comeback even more difficult by burying a wrister with 5:41 remaining in the game, setting the 4-2 final score.

Third Star Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 36-of-40 (90%).

While losing first place in the division and conference is obviously the bigger issue for the Wild, they are also responsible for allowing the 75-53-21 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series to have a one-point lead over the visitors.

October 22 – Day 11 – Not just a rivalry game

It’s Saturday, so you know what that means: a busy day. Everything is being held for prime time, so eight games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Toronto at Chicago [CBC], Montréal at Boston [CITY/TVAS], Tampa Bay at Ottawa [SN1/SN360], San Jose at Detroit, Colorado at Florida, Minnesota at New Jersey, Carolina at Philadelphia and the New York Rangers at Washington [NHLN]). 8 p.m. brings with it two more contests (Pittsburgh at Nashville and Columbus at Dallas), and the final two games find their start two hours later (Vancouver at Los Angeles [CBC] and St. Louis at Calgary [SN1/SN360]). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Boston: One of, if not the best all-time rivalry in hockey. It’s always worth the watch.
  • Toronto at Chicago: Another Original Six matchup.
  • New York at Washington: This rivalry goes back to the ’80s. Since all of us at Down the Frozen River were born in the ’90s, we’re pretty sure that was a long time ago.

Of those three games, it’s just too hard to ignore the scrap for the Atlantic Division lead between Montréal and Boston going on this evening in the TD Garden.

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Two of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference square off this evening and, as I mentioned before, the winner will take the division lead. But, something tells me that a division lead, especially this early in the season, is just icing on the cake between these two.

The Canadiens enter the game with an impeccable 3-0-1 record, with their lone single-point game occurring last weekend In Ottawa.

Although the Habs have scored 16 goals already this season, it has been their blue line and goaltending that has been more impressive. So far, Al Montoya and Carey Price have only allowed six tallies, half the league average, on a combined .955 save percentage.

The home Bruins have a 3-1-0 record, losing their only game last Saturday 4-1 in Toronto.

Just like their counterparts, goaltending has been the Bruins‘ shining spot so far this season, as Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have only allowed nine goals against, collectively saving 92.4% of shots faced.

To properly breakdown how good a goaltending matchup this could be, Montoya and Rask are the top two in the league in save percentage, and both also rank in the top five in goals against average. If presumed starter Price can continue to produce like his backup did to start the season, we should be in for a great game.

Some players to keep an eye on during this evening’s game include Boston‘s David Backes (+7 [tied for third-best in the league]), Brandon Carlo (+7 [tied for third-best in the NHL]), Zdeno Chara (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the league]), Brad Marchand (+9 [tied for the NHL-lead] with nine points [tied for the league-lead] on six assists [tied for the NHL-lead] and three goals [tied for ninth-most in the league]), David Pastrnak (+9 [tied for the NHL-lead] with four goals [tied for second-most in the league] for seven points [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (.947 save percentage [second-best in the league], three wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] and 1.67 GAA [fourth-best in the league]) & Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]), Montoya (1.3 GAA [leads the league] and .962 save percentage [leads the NHL] for a shutout [one of three so far this season] on two wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Shea Weber (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]).

Last season, the Canadiens took the season series 3-2-0, including two victories in Massachusetts. But, it is the Bruins that are favored in tonight’s game at -124. Although the Habs have played well to start the season, I have a hard time picking against Boston on home ice.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ron Tugnutt (1967-) – This goaltender put in 16 NHL seasons, playing most of his 537 games with Quebec (153) and Ottawa (166). Some of the records he still holds are most saves in a regular season contest (70) and highest regular season save percentage.
  • Stephane Quintal (1968-) – A long time Canadien, Quintal played 507 of his 1037 games along the blue line in a red sweater. Nowadays, he’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety.
  • Miroslav Satan (1974-) – Over 14 NHL seasons, Šatan played for five clubs, but he spent most of his time in Buffalo. The right wing scored 363 scores and ended up with 735 points.

I expected a Predators win in yesterday’s Game of the Day. I was terribly wrong.

This game may come to be known as the Power Play Game, as five of the eight scores were a result of the man-advantage. The first of those tallies was struck 5:17 into the second period when Justin Abdelkader (Third Star of the Game Ryan Sproul and Gustav Nyquist) took advantage of a Filip Forsberg holding penalty four seconds earlier to set the score at 1-0 for the Wings. The Predators struck back 8:56 later with power play goal of their own from P.K. Subban (Roman Josi) on a 5-on-3 play. Still on the power play from Danny DeKeyser sending the puck over the glass, Mike Ribeiro (Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson) gave Nashville a 2-1 lead with 5:29 remaining in the period. They couldn’t take that lead into the dressing room though, as Drew Miller (Mike Green) beat Pekka Rinne with 40 seconds remaining before the horn to level the score at two-all.

1:10 after returning to the ice, First Star Tomas Tatar (Alexey Marchenko and Jonathan Ericsson) returned the lead to the Red Wings on an even-strength snap shot. Nyquist takes credit for the game-winner, an unassisted snap shot with 8:33 remaining on the game clock. Nashville pulled within one when Mike Fisher (Josi and Forsberg) scored a power play goal, but Darren Helm (Luke Glendening and Henrik Zetterberg) put that comeback to sleep with a power play goal of his own with 22 seconds remaining on an empty-net.

Second Star Petr Mrazek earns the victory after saving 30-of-33 (90.9%), while Rinne takes the loss, saving 38-of-42 (90.5%).

Detroit‘s victory at Joe Louis Arena sets the home teams’ record in the DtFR Game of the Day series at 9-3-1, favoring them by eight points over the visiting squads

November 9 – Day 34 – Out of Necessity, Vol. 3

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings ended pretty close to how I think many expected it to, as the Stars won 4-1.

Dallas didn’t wait too long to get their first score on the board.  Assisted by First Star of the Game John Klingberg and Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp scored a power play goal only 7:22 into the game.  The eventual game winner was scored almost eight minutes later (7:57, to be precise) by Valeri Nichushkin (his first of the year) after being assisted by Third Star Jordie Benn and Jyrki Jokipakka.  With only 27 seconds remaining in the period, Detroit got back within a goal after Second Star Gustav Nyquist notched a power play tally, assisted by Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green.  The 2-1 score held well into the third period before things started falling apart in the Joe.

Only down a goal, Detroit pulled goaltender Petr Mrazek (Jimmy Howard started, but took a knee to the head at the 7:09 mark of the third), but Seguin, assisted by Sharp and Klingberg, made the Wings pay with an empty netter at the 18:52 mark.  Seventeen seconds later, Vernon Fiddler sent a puck over the glass, giving the Wings a power play, so they again pulled Mrazek to have a two-man advantage.  Yet once again, it was the Stars who scored, as Jamie Benn assisted Cody Eakin to a shorthanded empty netter, Dallas‘ fourth goal of the evening.

Kari Lehtonen improved his record to 6-1-0 after saving 21 of 22 (95.5%), while Howard’s record falls to 3-3-1 after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%).  Since the final two Stars goals were empty netters, Petr Mrazek technically shut Dallas out in his 11:06 played after saving both shots he faced, earning a no-decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-9-5, favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

If you’ve been following along with us all season, you already know what’s coming based on the title of this post.  There’s a whopping… *insert_drumroll_here.mp3*… one game being played tonight!  *insert_cymbal_crash_and_cool_instrumental_vamp_here.mp3*  Yes, the entire attention of the NHL will be turned to The Pond tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Arizona Coyotes at 10 p.m. eastern.

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This is Arizona‘s first appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, while Anaheim is making their third.  The last time they were featured, they fell in overtime in the United Center after playing all of regulation to a scoreless tie.

The 6-6-1 Arizona Coyotes enter tonight’s game in fourth place in the Pacific Division and 10th place in the Western Conference.  Their most recent game was a 4-1 thumping from the New York Rangers at Gila River Arena on Saturday.  So far this season, the Coyotes have been a better defensive team, but both ends of the ice are still sub-par in comparison to the rest of the league.

One of the few things Arizona has gotten right all season has been keeping opposing shots off Mike Smith.  Led by Zbynek Michalek’s  26 blocks, only 395 shots have required a save.  The defense may continue to be asked for more though, as Smith and his backup, Anders Lindback, have saved only 90.6% of those shots combined, allowing 38 goals so far this season.

That being said, the penalty kill has been fairly successful this season.  On 50 opposing attempts, only eight goals have been scored, giving them a 84% kill rate that exceeds the league average by a decent bit (2.81% as of Sunday morning).

On the other end, the offense has only put 371 shots on goal (led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 45), of which only 35 have completed their journey in the back of the net.

A major shortcoming of the Coyotes‘ is their power play.  Although they’ve earned a considerable 53 attempts, they’ve only managed to score six times.  That power play rate of 11.32% is made even worse due to the fact that the Coyotes have allowed a whopping four shorthanded goals already this year.  The special teams need to be a point of focus should Arizona want to take advantage of a weak division.

The 5-7-2 Anaheim Ducks enter the game on a four-game win streak, last beating the San Jose Sharks 1-0 in The Tank on Saturday.  They currently sit at fifth in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference, and are beginning to resemble the Ducks we expected to see this season.

Defense, specifically goaltending, has been the name of the game in Anaheim, as they’ve only allowed 33 goals so far this season.  Even though Frederik Andersen and his backup, Anton Khudobin, have faced 442 shots combined, they’ve saved a strong 93% of those attempts.  Add that in with Kevin Bieksa’s 28 blocks, and you find a team that plays as sound a defense as possible.

Even on the penalty kill, the Ducks have found ways to keep the opposition off the board.  On 48 attempts, opponents have scored only four power play goals.  If you’re doing the math in your head, the number you’ve come to is not wrong: the Ducks are killing 91.67% of their penalties, a rate that exceeds the league average by over 10%.

The offense has had a tough time getting started this year, as they’ve only managed 393 shots so far (led by Jakob Silfverberg’s 32, even though he has yet to score).  They’ve scored on 5.3% of those attempts for a measly 22 goals, but half of those goals have come during their four-game win streak, which should probably make their division rivals a little worried.

A spot where Anaheim still needs to improve is the power play.  On 42 attempts, only five pucks have found the back of the net for a lowly 11.9% success rate.  Again, it seems like Anaheim has finally started getting their skates under them, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see these numbers begin to climb in the next few weeks.

Last season, the Ducks won the season series 3-0-2, but were only 1-0-1 at the Honda Center.

Some players to watch in this one include Anaheim‘s Andersen (.935 save percentage [seventh in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tenth in the league]) and Arizona‘s Martin Hanzal (12 assists [tied for fifth in the league]).

Based on the statistics, their current winning streak, and the fact that they’re playing at home, I expect the Anaheim Ducks to take care of business in this one and move into fourth place in the division.