Tag Archives: Markov

April 7 – Day 170 – Selections are Slim, Vol. III

Here’s tonight’s listings.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning at Montréal Canadiens – 7:30 p.m. eastern – NBCSN
  • Hawaii Five-0 – 9 p.m. eastern – CBS
  • Blue Bloods – 10 p.m. eastern – CBS

Have you realized when I make this joke (not just today, but all season) just how many of those shows are on CBS? They crank out some good TV.

*This post not sponsored by Columbia Broadcasting System*

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This will be only Tampa Bay‘s fifth time being featured in the Game of the Day, while Montréal is making its 19th appearance. Within the DtFR series, the teams have 2-1-1 and 11-5-2 records, respectively.

By going on the road to the Air Canada Centre and beating current wild card Toronto 4-1 yesterday, the 40-30-10 Bolts amazingly still have playoff life. No matter the injuries and no matter the goaltending struggles, they’ve continued to find ways to get the job done.

If I asked you to name the best offense in the NHL since March 23, I’d assume you’d give me an answer like Washington or the Predators. While both are good guesses, one attack has been better: the Lightning‘s.

Tampa has struck 29 goals in the past 16 days for a 3.625 goals-per-game average. That impressive scoring ability has propelled the Bolts to a 6-1-1 record and within three points of eighth-place in the East. They may still need the Leafs to lose out, but the fact that there’s still a chance to dance is reason enough for the surge.

Regardless of how daunting or unpredictable a task playoff qualification is, Tampa doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. Only a season ago, Philadelphia climbed from fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break into the second wild card.

Though Nikita Kucherov has headed the Lightning‘s offense throughout this season during Steven Stamkos‘ absence, it has been Ondrej Palat and his league-leading 13 points leading the Bolts‘ attack in the past eight games. He closed March on a six-game point streak and already has two multi-point games this month.

Playing left wing on Tampa‘s top line, Palat is very adept at passing the puck. This has remained the case during his recent scoring spurt, as he’s set up fellow wing Kucherov for five tallies, the highest mark on the team since late-March.

Tampa has been especially deadly on the power play. as it has converted 38.1% of opponents’ penalties into tallies – the third-best mark in the NHL since March 23.

The man behind this surge is neither Kucherov nor Palat, but defenseman Victor Hedman – just as it’s been all year. Of his season-total 33 power play points, six have been struck in the past two weeks. All of those have been assists to a stellar first PP unit that includes Jonathan Drouin, Kucherov and Palat; each of whom has buried two man-advantage tallies since late-March.

Maybe the most significant improvement during this late-season run has been Tampa‘s penalty kill. On the season, the Bolts have only successfully defended 81% of their infractions, which is tied for 13th-best in the league. Lately, that kill rate is up to 85.7%, which ties for ninth-best in the NHL. 21-17-7 Andrei Vasilevskiy has been absolutely spectacular over this run, as his .935 shorthanded save percentage ties for third-best in the NHL since March 23 among netminders with at least five games played.

While one team is fighting for its playoff life, the other has been sitting around with nothing to play for since Monday night. That was when 46-25-9 Montréal beat the Panthers to clinch the Atlantic Division.

Montréal‘s overall defensive effort this season has been spectacular, and that’s been especially true since March 25. Over the past six games, the Habs have allowed only eight tallies, and that’s led them to a 5-1-0 record that ties for fifth-best in the league in that time.

Of course, that all starts with 37-19-5 Carey Price, who’s been in net for this entire run except for the division-clincher in Florida. He’s posted a .951 save percentage and 1.4 GAA over the past two weeks, which is the sixth and fifth-best marks, respectively, among the 42 goalies with at least three appearances since March 25.

Maybe even more impressive than Price’s effort has been that of his blueline. Co-led by Nathan Beaulieu and Andrei Markov and their 11 shot blocks apiece, the Canadiens‘ defense has allowed only 175 shots to reach its goaltender since late-March, the second-lowest total in the NHL.

If there’s three indicators to a strong defensive club, Montréal has them all. The goaltender? Solid. The defense? Excellent. The penalty kill? Unstoppable, at least of late. The Canadiens PK has not allowed a power play goal in its past six games, thanks in large part to Alexei Emelin‘s three shorthanded shot blocks.

That penalty kill will face a stiff test this evening, and may prove to be the deciding factor in this game. Of course, predicting anything about Montréal is difficult since it has nothing to play for. Head coach Claude Julien could take advantage of the fact that the Lightning are treating this like a playoff game to give his club a “playoff practice” of sorts, or he could keep his best players off the ice to keep them safe from a team willing to do anything for a win.

Tonight’s game is the final contest of the four-game regular season series between these clubs. They last met six days ago in Tampa, where Price led the Habs to a  2-1 overtime victory over the Bolts. That victory extended Montréal‘s record against the Lightning to 2-0-1 this year.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Montréal‘s Max Pacioretty (35 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Price (2.2 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] on a .924 save percentage for 37 wins [both tied for fifth-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [tied for third-most in the NHL] and a 2.18 GAA [fourth-best in the league]), Hedman (55 assists [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Kucherov (39 goals [tied for second-most in the league] for 82 points [sixth-most in the NHL]).

This is a tough game to predict since we have no idea what Julien will do. Due to that I offer my pick to win this way: if the Habs play this game to win, I believe they can do just that. If not, Tampa should have no trouble finding two points.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Pascal Dupuis (1979-) – The left winger enjoyed 871 games over 14 NHL seasons before being forced to retire last December due to blood clots. He was most known for his nine seasons with the Penguins, playing in 452 games and twice hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Between Second Star of the Game Oscar Klefbom‘s four-point night and First Star Milan Lucic‘s hat trick, the Oilers were able to best San Jose 4-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to all but lock up home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

The Sharks were actually the first club to score, as Joel Ward (David Schlemko and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) scored off a deflection at the 6:08 mark of the first period. It was the lone tally of the frame.

Third Star Connor McDavid (Klefbom and Adam Larsson) pulled the Oil back even 4:40 into the second period, but Edmonton couldn’t maintain a tied game into the second intermission. Brent Burns (Tomas Hertl) was the cause of that, as he scored a wrist shot with 7:30 remaining in the period.

I assume you’ve quickly realized that Lucic dominated the third period. He was most imposing in the first half of the frame, as he’s scored two of his tallies before eight minutes had ticked off the clock. His first tally, assisted by Klefbom and McDavid, was a power play deflection 4:26 into the third period to tie the game. 3:31 later, Klefbom and Jordan Eberle assisted him to another goal, a wrister that proved to be the game-winner. He added on his own insurance marker with 3:29 remaining in regulation on a power play wrister.

Even more than the offense, what might have been most impressive about Edmonton‘s play is the fact that the blueline yielded exactly five shots per period to reach Cam Talbot. He saved 13 of them (86.7%) for the victory, leaving the loss to Martin Jones, who saved 28-of-32 (87.5%).

A road victory is important in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it means the visitors have not lost the season series. The 87-60-25 home teams lead the visitors by five points with three days remaining on the schedule.

March 19 – Day 151 – We’ve turned into David Copperfield

There may be fewer games on today’s schedule compared to yesterday’s 10-game slate, but these matchups are no less important. The action starts at 1 p.m. with two games (Columbus at New Jersey and Florida at Pittsburgh [SN/TVAS]), followed by Minnesota at Winnipeg at 5 p.m. Colorado at Chicago (NHLN) drops the puck at the usual 7 p.m. starting time, trailed by two more (Carolina at Philadelphia and Ottawa at Montréal [RDS/SN]) half an hour later. Finally, Los Angeles at Calgary (SN1) acts as tonight’s nightcap, getting underway at 9:30 p.m. All times eastern.

In what is probably a first in the short history of the DtFR Game of the Day series, today’s featured game is nearly an exact replica of yesterday’s, as we follow the Canadiens and Senators from Ottawa to Montréal.

 

Since we just featured this matchup, today’s preview is going to look a little bit different. To start, the best way to set today’s matchup is with a recap of yesterday’s:


For the second night in a row, the road team won the DtFR Game of the Day with on a shootout victory. Last night, it was the Canadiens who beat Ottawa 4-3.

No goals were registered in the first period, but three were scored in both the remaining frames. Andrew Shaw (Phillip Danault and Shea Weber) got the scoring at the 22:37 mark of the game, but Third Star of the Game Derick Brassard (Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman) buried a power play wrist shot 9:59 later to level the game at one-all. With 6:08 remaining in the second period, Ryan Dzingel (Alexandre Burrows and Second Star Erik Karlsson) scored a wrister to give the Senators a 2-1 lead they would take into the second intermission.

With two goals in 31 seconds, the Canadiens flipped a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. 6:15 into the period, Danault (Artturi Lehkonen and Shaw) scored a wrister to tie the game at two-all, followed by a Brendan Gallagher (Andrei Markov) wrister to set the score at 3-2. With 4:57 remaining in regulation, Karlsson (Marc Methot and Brassard) buried his wrister to set tie the game at three-all, which would hold through the rest of timed play.

Off to the shootout!

  1. The best way to score in the shootout is to put a puck on net. Bobby Ryan apparently did not get that memo.
  2. First Star Paul Byron took advantage of Ryan’s mistake, burying his shot into Craig Anderson‘s net. The Habs led the shootout 1-0 after the first round.
  3. Turris tried to level the shootout for Ottawa, but Carey Price was up to the task and did not yield a tally, earning a sink-to-win scenario for Montréal.
  4. Alexander Radulov is not one to shy away from pressure in the shootout, and he proved that once again by scoring the unofficial game-winning goal.

Price earned the victory after saving 28-of-31 shots faced (90.3%), leaving the shootout loss to Anderson, who saved 29-of-32 (90.625%).

Those two straight shootout-winners by the 78-53-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series is part of a larger four-game winning streak, which has expanded their lead to five points over the series’ hosts.


That may have been the first blemish the Senators‘ record has suffered at the hands of Montréal this year, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have a two-point lead on the Habs in the season series.

Of course, the most important two-point lead belongs to Montréal. That lead, of course, pertains to the Atlantic Division.

That’s what has made this weekend’s series so important. Although the Habs have led the division for almost the entire season, the competition between these two clubs has been very tight for the entire year. The Sens are right behind the Habs, and could claim the division lead with a victory tonight due to their game-in-hand.

Goaltending is the strength of both these clubs, as made evident in last night’s meeting. Since 21-8-2 Anderson and 32-17-5 Price both played in yesterday’s prolonged game, it will be intriguing to see if they get the nod again today or if 18-12-6 Mike Condon and/or 8-6-3 Al Montoya make an appearance.

Had yesterday’s meeting not gone into a shootout, I would’ve been very confident in guessing that Montoya would continue to ride the bench this evening. Of course, the extra work could have Guy Boucher and Cluade Julien reconsidering their original plans.

Offensively, there’s no secret who leads the home Canadiens. It’s easily been Max Pacioretty and his 60 points – including 33 goals, another club high. Although he didn’t get on the scorecard last night against Anderson, the Habs‘ captain has a knack for scoring against the Sens. He’s registered 11 goals for 22 points over his career against Ottawa, including a hat trick plus two assists on April 4, 2014.

Ottawa‘s main offensive threat doesn’t even technically play offense. Of course, it’s the one-and-only Karlsson. He’s notched 65 points this season, the second-highest total among blueliners league-wide. Turris has a slight edge over Mark Stone in the Sens‘ goal-scoring race, but that’s due in part to the right wing missing four more games than the proud owner of 23 tallies.

Yesterday’s game may not have been the best example, but Montréal should have a special teams advantage in tonight’s game due to Ottawa‘s struggles on the power play. The Senators convert only 17.8% of their man-advantages, which is the 10th-worst rate in the NHL.

That being said, the Sens have definitely been on the upswing in the last month. Since February 19, Ottawa has converted 21.4% of their power plays, a 3.6% improvement in comparison to their season average.

Regardless of who wins this very important game, it looks to be certain that these clubs will finish first and second in the division. Boston has 82 points to its credit (which trails Ottawa by only four points), but all three teams have been playing solid hockey of late.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Montréal‘s Pacioretty (33 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Price (32 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] on a .922 save percentage [seventh-best in the NHL] and a 2.28 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (.929 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL] for a 2.25 GAA [seventh-best in the league]) or Condon (five shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) and Karlsson (51 assists [third-most in the league]).

While it proved correct to pick the Canadiens last night, a quick, incomplete search implies that oddsmakers are not so against the Senators with Anderson is involved in play. That being said, I’m still leaning towards Montréal in what should be another tight, exciting game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Vladimir Konstantinov (1967-) – This 11th-rounder in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft may have lasted only six seasons with Detroit, but it was a successful six years. That was no more true than his final season in the league when he hoisted the 1997 Stanley Cup.
  • Tyler Bozak (1986-) – This center has played his entire eight-year NHL career with the Maple Leafs, and he’s en route for the best campaign in that time this season. His 31 assists this season is already a career-high, and his 47 points is only two points short of matching his two-time high (last in 2014-’15).

December 20 – Day 69 – Getting Kul in Florida

As usual, you’d better have your remote ready for tonight’s onslaught of games, because there’s a bunch of good ones. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. with four games (the New York Islanders at Boston [SN], Nashville at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh and Los Angeles at Columbus), followed half an hour later by another trio of contests (Anaheim at Montréal [RDS], Detroit at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Buffalo at Florida). Colorado at Minnesota drops the puck at the top of the hour, and a pair of games (Ottawa at Chicago [RDS2] and St. Louis at Dallas) wait until 8:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Vancouver gets the West Coast involved at 10 p.m., with our nightcap – Calgary at San Jose – waiting 30 minutes before getting underway.

Short list:

  • New York at Boston: Dennis Seidenberg called the TD Garden home for seven seasons, but he’s gotten a new start in Brooklyn.
  • New York at Pittsburgh: An important duel in the Metropolitan Division is also a rematch of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.
  • Detroit at Tampa Bay: Another Eastern Quarterfinals rematch, but last season’s success is still eluding both these clubs.
  • Buffalo at Florida: Dmitry Kulikov is in the same homecoming boat as Seidenberg. He returns to his old stomping grounds of seven years with his new club.
  • St. Louis at Dallas: Yet another rematch, but this matchup occurred in the Western Semifinals.

I’m torn between featuring Kulikov or Seidenberg, as both spent considerable portions of their careers in the building they’ll be playing in this evening. Since the game in the Sunshine State will probably be much more competitive, we’ll focus on Kulikov.

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With the 14th-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers selected Dmitry Kulikov from Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

That was the last the Voltigeurs saw of the defenseman, as he signed a contract with the Panthers the following September to begin play in the NHL only a month later.

Barring the 2012-13 lockout season, Kulikov has played at least 58 games in each of the remaining six seasons of his career. While he’s been unable to fully maintain his scoring reputation from his junior days (his 138 points are 75th-most among the 603 defensemen to appear in a game since he’s joined the league), he’s still been very effective for his club as the second-highest points earner among Panthers blueliners.

Leading that group of defensemen from 2009-’16 was Brian Campbell, whose 175 points were 37 more than the Russian’s in 84 fewer games (he joined Florida before the 2011-’12 season). Both skaters notched 28 goals during their tenure with the Panthers.

Kulikov began making his way to the KeyBank Center during this season’s draft. He and Vancouver‘s second round pick that was in the Panthers‘ possession was exchanged with Buffalo for Mark Pysyk, Buffalo‘s second round pick and St. Louis‘ third round pick then in possession of the Sabres.

It’s proven to be a tough transition for Kulikov. He has yet to even notch an assist this season, much less a goal, due in part to injuring his back during the preseason. He played 12 games before taking a leave of absence that left him out of the lineup for a month. Tonight’s game is only his fifth contest back in the lineup, and he’ll certainly want to score on the team that didn’t value him enough to keep him off the trading block.

The Sabres enter tonight’s game with a 12-11-7 record to sit in last place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve gotten in that position by playing some very poor offense that has scored only 65 goals – tying with Colorado for fewest in the NHL.

Hurling insults at the Sabres offense is a difficult thing to do given Jack Eichel was injured for nearly two months. That being said, the offense did not gel without him and has put the Sabres in a tough spot to start the season. Kyle Okposo, with his 22 points to lead the team, and Rasmus Ristolainen effectively carried the team on their backs, as they are the only two skaters with more than 18 points to their credit. Okposo especially deserves credit, as his nine tallies are the most on the team.

One part of Buffalo‘s game where they did not suffer during Eichel’s absence was their man-advantage. Led by Okposo and Ristolainen’s dozen power play points, the Sabres have converted 22.9% of their advantageous opportunities, the third-best rate in the league.

As good as the power play has been, the penalty kill has been the reverse. Even with Josh Gorges‘ 14 shorthanded shot blocks (which ties him for 22nd-most in the league), the Sabres have prevented their opposition from scoring only 73.6% of the time, the worst effort in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 14-13-5 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division. Just like Buffalo, their struggles are found on the offensive end of the ice, where their 75 total goals are sixth-fewest in the NHL.

The similarities between tonight’s clubs continue. Just like the Sabres, Florida has two players who have stood out among a mediocre offense. Aleksander Barkov (22) and Jon Marchessault (20) are the only two players with more than 17 points to their credit so far this season. Marchessault has been especially impressive, as his 10 goals are also the best on the squad.

The power play has really suffered during this season’s scoring slump. Florida has only potted 14.8% of their man-advantage opportunities, the seventh-worst rate in the NHL. Marchessault has been active in this situation too. His seven power play points are most on the team.

Before we go any further, there’s one more matter we need to address: Marchessault, as great has he’s been, is currently listed on the Panthers’ injury report. He’s missed the last two games with a lower body injury, and hasn’t played since last Tuesday in Minnesota.

If anything has gone right for Florida, it’s been their defense – specifically their penalty kill. Successful on 86% of attempts, the Panthers are the fifth-best team when down a man, led by Michael Matheson‘s seven shorthanded blocks.

These squads have already met up once this season at the KeyBank Center. It was a very successful night for the Sabres, as they kept the Panthers off the board, compliments of Anders Nilsson, en route to a 3-0 victory. Johan Larsson‘s first goal of the season was the winner.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Nilsson (.933 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Florida‘s Barkov (15 assists among 22 points [both lead the team]).

Florida has a -150 next to their name, which is bad news for the Sabres. It’s tough not to side with the Panthers given the fact that they’re at home. Regardless of who wins, you can certainly assume it will be a low-scoring affair.

Hockey Birthday

  • Cory Stillman (1973-) – The sixth-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this left wing played 1025 games over 16 seasons. He spent most of his days with the club that drafted him but won a Stanley Cup with both Tampa Bay (2004) and Carolina (2006).
  • Andrei Markov (1978-) – This defenseman was selected by Montréal in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s played with the Canadiens ever since. Tonight could mark his 960th career game, provided his lower body injury sustained Sunday in Washington isn’t too severe.

It took a two-goal third period for the Ducks to knock-off the Maple Leafs, winning 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It took 27:27 before Third Star of the Game Auston Matthews (Nikita Zaitsev and Zach Hyman) scored a tip-in goal to give Toronto a 1-0 advantage, but Anaheim was able to level with 1:59 remaining in the frame. Ryan Getzlaf‘s (Sami Vatanen and First Star Cam Fowler) snapper was aided by the fact that Zaitsev was serving two minutes in the penalty box for roughing.

The Ducks when right back to work upon returning from the second intermission. 1:21 after taking the ice for the third period, Nick Ritchie (Ondrej Kase) fired a wrister to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. It lasted 10:21 before Nazem Kadri (Matt Hunwick) scored a wrister of his own to once again level the contest. With 6:52 remaining in regulation, Fowler (Ryan Kesler) buried a power play snapper to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead they would not yield.

Second Star John Gibson saved 33-of-35 (94.3%) shots faced for the victory, leaving the loss to Frederik Andersen, saving 25-of-28 (89.3%) in the loss.

Anaheim’s victory pulls the road teams within five points of the hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series, who have a 37-23-11 record.

January 19 – Day 101 – It’s the last Boston-Montréal game of the regular season!

The St. Louis Blues used a three-goal third period to secure the 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

It took exactly 12 minutes before Alexander Steen scored the Blues‘ first goal, assisted by First Star of the Game Paul Stastny (his 16th  helper of the season), but they were not able to keep the lead into the intermission, as Christ Kunitz scored with 117 seconds remaining off assists from Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby (the 23rd assist of the season for both).

The Pens took their only lead of the game at the 15:56 mark of the second with a tally from Evgeni Malkin, off assists from Carl Hagelin and Letang (his 24th helper of the season), but the Blues leveled the score 1:18 later with Vladimir Tarasenko’s 25th goal of the season off assists from Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri.  The two-all score held into the second intermission.

The Blues‘ game-winning goal occurred only 2:10 after resuming play, courtesy of Second Star Troy Brouwer after assists from Stastny and Colton Parayko (his 13th helper of the season).  Stastny continued his excellent night with the first insurance goal, assisted by Brouwer and Jay Bouwmeester (his 11th helper of the season).  The final goal of the night was an empty-netter with only 12 seconds remaining, courtesy of Kevin Shattenkirk after assists from Steen (his 27th helper of the season) and Stastny.

Third Star Brian Elliott earns the win after saving 36 of 38 (94.7%) to improve his record to 9-5-4, while Jeff Zatkoff’s record falls to 3-5-1 after saving only 20 of 24 (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-19-9, favoring the home squad by 33 points.

It’s an eight-game schedule on this Tuesday, with four games dropping the opening puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at New Jersey, Vancouver at the New York Rangers, Toronto at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Washington at Columbus).  7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of two more games (Boston at Montréal [RDS] and Edmonton at Tampa Bay), followed half an hour later by Chicago at Nashville (NBCSN/SN1).  This evening’s nightcap occurs at 10:30 p.m. eastern between Dallas and Los Angeles.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Washington at Columbus, Boston at Montréal and Chicago at Nashville), and two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Montréal and Dallas at Los Angeles).  The Chicago at Nashville game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Although I’m intrigued by the DallasLos Angeles game, the BostonMontréal game is too important in the standings for us to ignore.  To Montréal we go!

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Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 10th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-5-1 record.  Their most recent showing in such games was on January 11, when they lost 2-1 in Madison Square Garden.  Montréal has been featured eight times before tonight, and own a 6-1-0 record in such games, with their most recent being on New Year’s Day against these Bruins in Foxboro, Mass., where they won 5-1.

The 23-16-5 Boston Bruins currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the first wild card position.  To get themselves to that position, they utilize one of the best offenses in the league, backed by an above-average defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 153 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck 1388 times, of which a solid 9.4% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Bergeron’s 17 tallies), fourth-most in the league.  A specific facet of Boston‘s offense that has proven highly successful has been the power play, where they’ve scored on a whopping 27.73% of attempts for 33 goals.

Defensively, the Bruins have allowed only 1272 shots (aided by Kevan Miller’s team-leading 71 blocks) to reach 15-13-4 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 115 goals against, 12th-best in the league.  While the penalty kill has been successful (killing 84% for only 24 power play goals against), their biggest strength has been scoring shorties, with six to their credit (led by Brad Marchand’s three).

Boston is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most showing being a 3-2 victory against the Maple Leafs on Saturday.  A win tonight has the potential to move them past Tampa Bay into the third division spot for the Atlantic.

The 23-19-4 Montréal Canadiens currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  They play a game very similar to the Bruins (I know, neither fan base likes being compared to the other), as they have a solid offense backed by an above-average defense.

Led by Max Pacioretty’s 181 attempts, the Habs have fired the puck 1457 times, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 126 tallies (led by Pacioretty’s 19 goals), seventh-most in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has been very successful, the power play has not been as good, as they’ve only found the back of the net on 18.18% of attempts for 28 goals (led by Pacioretty’s seven).

Thanks in part to Andrei Markov’s team-leading 75 blocks, only 1274 shots have made their way to 12-11-4 Mike Condon and co., of which they’ve saved 91.1% for 117 goals against, 15th-best in the league.  The penalty kill has been slightly above average as well, as they’ve killed 84.56% of attempts for 23 goals against.

The Habs are currently riding a four-game losing streak, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.  Should Montréal win tonight, they will swap spots with the Bruins for the first wild card spot.

This is the final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals, with the Habs already winning the series 3-1-0.  Their last meeting was at the Winter Classic, where Montréal won 5-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game includes Boston‘s Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league]) and Montréal‘s P.K. Subban (29 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

This one is a tough one to pick.  Although I think the Bruins are the better overall team, it is hard to argue against the result of the last meeting, especially since the game is in Montréal this time.  The line reads Montréal at -111, so I suppose I’ll pick the Habs to pull out the victory.

November 7 – Day 32 – Let’s watch THAT rivalry

It may have taken overtime, but the Detroit Red Wings improved their record to 7-5-1 after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Assisted by Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg scored the Wings‘ lone regulation goal at the 16:21 mark of the first period from the blue line, the lone goal through both intermissions.

Detroit fans were apparently starting to think the ‘S-word’ too early, as Tyler Bozak and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau assisted Dion Phaneuf to score on Petr Mrazek with only 1:02 remaining to tie the game.

Jakub Kindl, assisted by Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar, fired the game winner over James Reimer’s glove shoulder at 2:17 mark of overtime to seal the victory for the Wings.

Mrazek’s record improves to 4-3-0 after saving 32 of 33 (97%), while Reimer’s record falls to 2-2-2 after saving 22 of 24 (91.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-5, still favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday (aren’t they all, though?) in the best hockey league in the world, and the action gets an early start at 1 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Buffalo (SN).  After that game finishes, our attention turns to the Staples Center, where Los Angeles hosts Florida at 4 p.m. eastern.  Following the completion of that game, the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features four matchups (Boston at Montréal [NHL Network/TVAS/SN], Toronto at Washington [CBC], Ottawa at Carolina [SN1/TVAS2] and Philadelphia at Winnipeg).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two more opening puck drops (St. Louis at Nashville and Tampa Bay at Minnesota), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Arizona.  10 p.m. witnesses the beginning of the Pittsburgh at Calgary game (CBC/SN), followed half an hour later by the evening’s nightcap: Anaheim at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (BruinsCanadiens, BluesPredators and DucksSharks), and two are being contested by two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (BluesPredators and LightningWild).

I’m torn between the BluesPredators and BruinsCanadiens, but given the heated, historical rivalry between the second pair, that has to be where we direct our attention tonight.

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This is Boston‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their opponent, the Habs, have been featured four times before tonight and have won all of their appearances.

The 6-5-1 Boston Bruins enter tonight’s game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent occurring Thursday in Washington, where they fell 4-1.  It was their first result on the road that wasn’t a victory, as they opened the season winning five straight games away from the TD Garden.  They currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.

It has been the B‘s offense that has been paying dividends this season, as they’ve had to cover up mistakes on the other end of the ice.  Although they’ve only notched 365 shots so far this season (led by Patrice Bergeron’s 37), they’ve scored 43 goals (with David Krejci accounting for seven) – giving them a cool 11.8% shooting percentage.  Especially potent has been the power play, as the man-advantage has accounted for 14, or 32.6%, of those goals (Bergeron has four to his credit).  Although the Habs are pretty good at killing penalties, they may want to avoid that as much as possible tonight (then again, if we know anything about this rivalry, the chances of that happening are slim to none).

As stated before, the offense has needed to be that good to make up for the sub-par play on the other end.  Kevan Miller has tried to do the best he can blocking shots (he leads the team with 21), but 326 have still reached Tuukka Rask (3-5-1, 87.9%) and co., of which only 88.7% have been saved.  That results is quite a few goals scored against Boston, 40 to be exact, and that rate gets much lower when down a man.  On 44 power play attempts for the opposition, the Bruins have been scored on 13 times, meaning they’ve only stopped 70.45%.

The 12-2-1 Montréal Canadiens enter tonight’s game atop the NHL by three points.  Their most recent game was Thursday when they beat the Islanders 4-1.  The Canadiens are a strong team on both ends of the ice and have firmly established themselves as early favorites after only a month of play.

Their offense has put 458 shots on net (led by Max Pacioretty’s 50), with 12% of those attempts ending up behind the opposing goaltender.  Yes, your math is correct: that’s 55 tallies (of which Dale Weise owns eight), a total that exceeds the league average by 20 scores.  Although not as strong as Boston‘s, Montréal‘s power play has been good in their own right as the Habs have scored on 13 of 52 (25%) attempts, led by Brendan Gallagher’s four goals.  Paired with the Bruins‘ penalty kill, the Canadiens‘ power play could be extremely potent tonight.

On the other end of the ice, the Canadiens have given up 2.25 goals per game (27 total).  Of the shots Andrei Markov doesn’t stop (he has 29 blocks so far this season), Carey Price (7-2-0, 93.6%) and co. have saved 93.8% of the 436 shots they’ve faced this season, allowing only 27 goals.  Even when facing a power play, they’ve played stellar, as they’ve only given up five goals on 49 attempts (89.8%).  This stat will be put to the test as they are facing the Bruins‘ fantastic power play.

In their first of five meetings, the Habs beat Boston at the TD Garden 4-2, with Lars Eller scoring twice in that game.  Last season, Montréal swept Boston in the season series 4-0-0, adding to their all-time record of 461-342-103 over the Bruins.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Krejci (15 points [tied for sixth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]) and Montréal‘s Mike Condon (1.5 GAA [leads the league] and .941 save percentage [second in the league]), Gallagher (+9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Markov (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Pacioretty (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]), Tomas Plekanec (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and 14 points [tied for ninth in the league]), P.K. Subban (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +11 [tied for second in the league]) & Weise (eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]).

Montréal is favored at -140 in tonight’s game, but I’m not convinced that it will be that easy, especially if the Bruins can get under the Habs‘ skin and earn more than their fair-share of penalties while also avoiding going a man-down themselves.