The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.
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.
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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Since I did this last Monday, I suppose I’ll do it again today: including today, there’s only 15 days until the NHL Trade Deadline. Be on your toes, because things are going to start happening before you know it.
As we’ve been doing since the Olympics began, we started today’s action at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time in PyeongChang when fifth-ranked Sweden took on the host unified Korean women’s team. The visiting Swedes showed no mercy, as they dominated Korea to an 8-0 victory. That will set up a Group B-determining game between Sweden and Switzerland tomorrow.
Back home in the NHL, there’s three games on the schedule, starting with Tampa Bay at Toronto (NHLN/TVAS) at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Tonight’s co-nightcaps – Florida at Edmonton and Chicago at Arizona – drop the puck two hours later to close out the evening.
Lastly, we’ll include the first of two games going down in Group A of the women’s Olympic tournament before the sun comes up on North America’s east coast. Second-ranked Canada is taking on third-ranked Finland at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time.
Here’s the list of games that are drawing my attention:
- Sweden vs. Korea: It’s the Koreans’ second chance to defend home ice. Can they do it?
- Chicago at Arizona: W Anthony Duclair was part of the Coyotes’ future… until he was traded to the Blackhawks last month.
- Canada vs. Finland: Another regulation win by the Canadians would earn them a bye into the semifinals of the knockout round.
You’ll notice I didn’t include the Atlantic Division game between the Bolts and Leafs. Considering we’ve featured those teams a combined three times in the past eight days, I think we can let some of the other teams have a turn.
Did I sound like your kindergarten teacher there?
Anyways, of our remaining tilts, there’s only one is worthy of Game of the Day honors. Grab your coffee – and tune your TV to NBCSN if you’re in the United States – because we’re staying up late!
Oh boy, the first time the DtFR Game of the Day series has featured something outside the NHL!
After only one game played apiece by the teams in Group A, Team Canada comes into tonight’s fixture in first place. Though they’re tied with Team USA in the points category, Canada’s +5 goal-differential is three tallies superior to the effort of the Americans.
As the numbers currently stand right now (again, there’s only been six games played at the Olympics so far), Canada is employing the tournament’s second best offense by scoring five goals in one game (Switzerland is leading the way in offensive production by averaging 5.5 goals per game).
Leading that charge is none other than F Rebecca Johnston, who scored two of Canada’s goals – including the game-winner at the 1:55 mark of the second period – and provided an assist on a third against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
F Marie-Philip Poulin (the Sidney Crosby of women’s hockey according to the CBC in 2010) was also very successful in that opening bout, as the captain provided three assists. Of those assists, two were for Canadian sniper F Melodie Daoust, who matched Johnston’s goal-scoring effort by burying two of her three shots.
Though she only has assists to her name right now, don’t think that Poulin isn’t willing to make her own plays. After all, she scored the gold medal-winning goal in both the 2010 Vancouver and the 2014 Sochi Games – not to mention the game-tying goal in Sochi as well.
Of note, the Canadian’s power play seems fully capable of taking advantage of any uneven scenarios. They managed to score on two of their seven power plays for a 28.6 percent success rate, the second-best at the Olympics.
Defensively, the Canadians are no slouches either, as they held the OAR to only 18 shots on goal – all of which were saved by G Ann-Renee Desbiens.
Meanwhile, third place Finland had its hands full against the United States in their first showing at these Olympic Games. Though the Finns scored the first goal of the game with six ticks left on the first period clock, the Americans stormed back to take a 3-1 victory.
F Venla Hovi scored that goal with assists from F Petra Nieminen and F Linda Valimaki, and that top line – not to mention the other three – will need to perform even better for a chance to beat Canada.
Of course, almost every Finnish national team of either sex has had some of the best goaltending in the world at its disposal, and that looks to be the same for this year’s women’s side. Although she ended up with the loss, G Noora Raty performed solidly against the Americans, saving 39-of-41 for a .951 save percentage. With eight different Canadians finding the scorecard in their opening match, Raty will be front and center this evening.
The last time Canada and Finland squared off was November 10, 2017 in the Four Nations Cup in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Canada dominated that game to a 4-0 victory. Both Meghan Agosta (0-2-2) and Poulin (1-1-2) registered two points apiece, and G Genevieve Lacasse posted the eight-save shutout. Raty saved 24-of-28 (.857 save percentage) in the loss.
Considering the Canadians are riding a two-game winning streak against Finland, it’s hard to imagine the Naiseleijonat pulling off the upset. Canada’s defense limiting the Lady Lions to only eight shots in their last meeting is very telling, and I predict a similar showing tonight.
Having trailed 2-0 in the third period, the San Jose Sharks came back to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 after a shootout at Honda Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
The first of Anaheim’s goals was struck only 2:39 into the game. With his 15th marker of the season, Second Star of the Game RW Ondrej Kase (C Adam Henrique and LW Nick Ritchie) took credit with a snap shot.
The Ducks’ final goal of the match wasn’t registered until the 6:28 mark of the third period, scored by a D Cam Fowler (Kase and Ritchie) wrist shot. San Jose’s comeback began 4:28 later courtesy of a F Logan Couture (F Tomas Hertl and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic) slap shot, but it didn’t level the game at 2-2 until only 54 seconds remained in regulation. With G Martin Jones pulled for the extra attacker, First Star W Timo Meier (Couture and D Brent Burns) buried a tip-in to force what proved to be a scoreless three-on-three overtime.
That forced yet another shootout in the series between these two teams this season, their third in four meetings. As hosts, the Ducks had the option of shooting first or second…
- Head Coach Randy Carlyle elected to shoot first, sending Henrique to center ice. His clapper was saved by Jones.
- F Joe Pavelski had the opportunity to earn an early shootout lead, and he did just that by sneaking his shot past Third Star G John Gibson.
- Having scored a team-leading 22 goals on the season, F Rickard Rakell seemed like a logical choice to keep Anaheim alive in the shootout. Unfortunately, his attempt found iron instead of the net, giving the Sharks a make-to-win situation.
- Who else to take such an opportunity than Couture? He added to his two-point night by winning the game with the final shootout goal.
Jones earned the victory after saving 25-of-27 shots faced (.926 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Gibson, who saved 33-of-35 (.949).
The Sharks’ victory means road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day have earned at least a point in four of the last five games. As such, the roadies have pulled within 25 points of the 68-40-16 hosts.