Tag Archives: Martin

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 15

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise –  is Connor Keith.

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 2

By: DtFR Staff

After trailing 3-1 in 3rd period, the Ottawa Senators completed the comeback with a 4-3 victory on an overtime goal from Dion Phaneuf shortly after the Boston Bruins killed off a delay of game penalty against captain Zdeno Chara.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 25 saves on 29 shots faced for an .862 save percentage in the loss, while Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% for the win.

Still tied 0-0 entering the 2nd period, the Bruins struck first on a goal from Drew Stafford (1) at 9:47 of the period. Stafford’s goal was challenged by the Senators, who thought it was offsides, but after review it was determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice. David Backes (1) and Chara (1) tallied the assists on Stafford’s goal.

Clarke MacArthur (1) hit the twine for his first playoff goal since his comeback from injury (and first in two years) on a power play at 10:57 of the 2nd period. MacArthur’s goal tied the game, 1-1, and was assisted by the hot hands of Bobby Ryan (1) and Derick Brassard (1).

Tim Schaller (1) picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a shorthanded opportunity at 12:39 in just his 2nd career NHL playoff appearance to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Dominic Moore (1) recorded the only assist on Schaller’s goal.

With 3:59 remaining in the 2nd period, it looked like Boston had the game all but put away as Patrice Bergeron (1) redirected a shot from David Pastrnak past Anderson for a two-goal lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak (2) and Ryan Spooner (1) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s goal.

Boston went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead, but came out looking flat for the final twenty minutes of regulation. And it ultimately cost them.

Chris Wideman (1) fired a shot past Rask— who had been partially screened by his own rookie defenseman, Charlie McAvoy— to make it a one goal game just 5:28 into the 3rd period. Phaneuf (1) had the only assist on the goal and recorded his first point of a three-point night (one goal, two assists).

A mere 2:20 later, Brassard (1) received a pass from Erik Karlsson and sent it behind Rask on a one-timer goal. Karlsson (2) and Phaneuf (2) notched the assists on the game-tying tally not even halfway into the final period of regulation.

After Chara sent the puck over the glass and earned an automatic two-minute minor penalty for delay of game, the Bruins managed to kill off 1:48 of the remaining time on the penalty kill that had carried over into overtime.

Eleven seconds later, it was all over, however, as the B’s were caught in their own zone, while the Sens pressured their will onto their opponent.

Phaneuf (1) sent one behind Rask on a pass from Mark Stone (1) almost two minutes into overtime and tied the series 1-1 with his game winning overtime goal.

The series shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Monday night with Games 3 and 4 hosted by the Bruins before the now necessary Game 5 will occur in Ottawa on Friday, April 21st.

Again, Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally on CNBC in the United Stats and SN/TVAS in Canada.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 2

Led by First Star of the Game Kasperi Kapanen‘s two-goal night, the Maple Leafs were able to level their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Captials at one-all with a 4-3 double-overtime victory at the Verizon Center.

When a playoff game requires overtime, some believe that most of the regulation action doesn’t matter. Kapanen probably doesn’t prescribe to that theory, as his first career postseason goal was almost as important as his second.

With 5:35 remaining in the second period, the rookie right wing (Matt Martin and Brian Boyle) scored a turn-around backhander five-hole on Braden Holtby from right in front of his crease. That tally pulled then the Leafs even at two-goals apiece.

Of course, the one he’ll remember for a long time is the first game-winner of his short NHL career – playoffs or otherwise. To beat the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, you have to be quick, and that’s exactly what Kapanen and co. were. The play started when Martin won a battle near the far corner behind Holtby’s net. He managed to force a pass behind the goal to Boyle, who one-touched the puck with a backhander back towards to far post. Kapanen was streaking towards the crease, so he was more than able to collect the pass and pound it home behind an unsuspecting Holtby, who thought Boyle still had the puck.

This series is turning nasty in a hurry. Though it’s only two games deep, 32 penalty minutes have been served between these two clubs – 24 of which were Saturday night.

All those opposing power plays put pressure on goaltenders, but both Frederik Andersen and Holtby performed rather amicably. Andersen saved 47-of-50 (94%) on the night for the victory, leaving the overtime loss to Holtby, who stopped 47-of-51 (92.2%).

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 2

As far as seeding is concerned, the Central Division is an absolute mess in the first round, as the Predators beat Chicago 5-0 Saturday at the United Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup as the series transitions to Nashville.

Nashville is playing the Blackhawks like a fiddle right now. Led by Austin Watson and his eight blows, the Predators threw 48 hits to get under the top seed in the West’s skin. And as you’d expect, that’s yielded penalties, and lots of them. The Hawks served 16 penalty minutes – almost all of them in the all-important third period.

Nashville was able to convert one of its three power plays into a goal, though it was the ultimately unimportant fifth goal – a Kevin Fiala (Second Star of the Game Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban) wrist shot from the far face-off dot to beat Corey Crawford stick-side with 107 seconds remaining in the game.

No, the winner came off Third Star Ryan Ellis‘ (Johansen and Roman Josi) stick. Only 3:44 into the contest, he fired a one-timer from the blueline so hard the rebound off Crawford’s pad came right back to him. If at first you don’t succeed… Ellis went right back to work, firing another slap shot to beat the netminder glove side.

Even when Chicago was able to run its offense, it ran into one major problem: First Star Pekka Rinne. The goaltender saved all 30 shots he faced for the third postseason shutout of his career, and second straight.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

Thanks to a power play tally late in the third period, Anaheim beat the Flames 3-2 at the Honda Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup.

No penalty is a good penalty when it turns into a power play goal. Just ask Dougie Hamilton, who was caught holding Corey Perry‘s stick with 5:27 remaining in regulation. Only 41 seconds later, First Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf (Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves) miraculously ricocheted a pass-turned-shot off Lance Bouma‘s skate for the freak game-winning goal.

Those Calgary mistakes were further compounded when T.J. Brodie cross-checked Kesler with 2:38 remaining in regulation. Though Mikael Backlund (Michael Frolik) managed to bury a shorthanded wrist shot with 96 seconds remaining in the first period to then pull Calgary back within a 2-1 deficit, goals while down a skater are tough to come by – especially at the end of games.

If not for their 17 penalty minutes and miserable 41% face-off percentage, the Flames were doing a lot of the right things to win. They matched the Ducks’ physicality by throwing 34 hits to their 38, while also managing almost 40 shots on goal. Though it has yet to win a game, Calgary still is a dangerous foe for the Pacific champions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 12

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise –  is Connor Keith.

 

New York Rangers at Montréal Canadiens – Game 1

On nights like these, it doesn’t matter who the goal comes from. All that matters is that it goes in the net. That was the case for the Rangers, who bested the Habs 2-0 at the Bell Centre to take an early lead in their playoff series.

After collecting a face-off Tomas Plekanec had originally won for Montréal, Second Star of the Game Tanner Glass sneaked an unassisted backhanded shot over Third Star Carey Price‘s glove shoulder at the 9:50 mark of the first period for what proved to be the netminder’s only goal allowed on the night. Michael Grabner (Jesper Fast) provided the lone insurance tally on an empty net with 70 seconds remaining in regulation.

We knew coming into this series it was a matchup between two incredible goaltenders in 31-20-4 First Star Henrik Lundqvist and 37-20-5 Price, and they didn’t disappoint, combining for 59 saves. Lundqvist saved all 30 he faced for the 10th postseason shutout of his career.

New York truly took command of this game after the first intermission, limiting the Canadiens to only 15 shots over the remaining 40 minutes. Even when the Habs were able to control the posession, the Blueshirts would not let them get a shot on Lundqvist’s net, managing 24 blocks – led by Dan Girardi‘s four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

After going 0-3-1 against the Ottawa Senators in the regular season, the Boston Bruins opened up their edition of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 victory on road ice.

Fresh off of his two-game suspension for the last two games of the regular season, Brad Marchand scored the game winning goal with 2:33 to go in the 3rd period– capping an almost two-minute long shift.

Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson, played a stellar game despite the loss. Anderson made 23 saves on 25 shots faced for a .920 save percentage.

Both teams swapped tremendous chances in the first 20 minutes, but neither Boston’s David Pastrnak, nor Ottawa’s Derick Brassard could score on back-to-back breakaway chances. After an eventful 1st period which nearly witnessed Bruins forward– and Ottawa native– Ryan Spooner pocket one in the twine with about four seconds to go, the score remained tied at 0-0.

The Sens kicked off the series’s goal scoring in the 2nd period with a goal from Bobby Ryan (1) at 10:28. Ryan crashed the net and followed up on one of his own chances, firing the puck short side by Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask. Erik Karlsson (1) notched the only assist on the goal.

For the first time since May 10, 2014 an NHL team was held without a shot in a single period in a Stanley Cup playoff game, as Boston did not record a shot on goal in the 2nd period. The Anaheim Ducks, by the way, were the last team to do so in their matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks wound up winning the game 2-0, however.

After going without a goal in his last 15 games of the regular season, Frank Vatrano (1) found the back of the net with 15:05 to go in the 3rd period in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game. Riley Nash (1) and Adam McQuaid (1) were credited with the assists on the goal.

Vatrano became the 6th Bruin since 1999 to score in his playoff debut and Boston tied the game, 1-1.

Late in the 3rd period, Marchand (1) put the Bruins ahead for the first time in the game with the game-winning goal off of a blocked shot by Dion Phaneuf. Patrice Bergeron (1) and Pastrnak (1) collected the assists on Marchand’s 17th career NHL playoff goal.

Boston’s Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .936 save percentage in the win. The Bruins lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 scheduled for Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre and can be viewed on NBC/TVAS/SN at 3 p.m. ET.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

When Matthew Murray went down in warmups, things were looking grim for the Penguins, at least for their playoff opener. Instead, First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury saved all but one shot faced to lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.

Just like Pierre McGuire said during the broadcast, sometimes the best trade a club can make is the very one they don’t. Trade rumors swirled about the Penguins’ former first-overall pick all season, but he turned in a 31-save performance and a Game 1 victory for First Star honors.

Jeff Zatkoff, anyone? Maybe Fleury has too much playoff experience to be the Pens’ new “Mr. Game 1,” but the story is beginning to sound eerily similar to last year’s Cup run.

Offensively, the Pens showed one period of greatness after a sluggish opening frame. The Jackets held them to only three shots on the opening 20 minutes – including none in the last 14:49 – due in large part to their 23 first period hits .

The Penguins came out on fire after the intermission, notching all three of their tallies. Only 1:15 after returning from the dressing room, Bryan Rust (Second Star Phil Kessel and Third Star Evgeni Malkin) broke the ice with a snap shot. Kessel’s assist was especially impressive, as he used his skate to pass to the right wing.

Rust’s tally was followed only 2:30 later by Kessel’s (Justin Schultz and Malkin) eventual game-winner. Kessel’s tally was a strong power play wrist shot from the near face-off dot over Sergei Bobrovsky‘s glove shoulder.

Nick Bonino (Patric Hornqvist and Olli Maatta) provided Pittsburgh’s final tally with 3:35 remaining in the frame.

Columbus finally got on the board with 7:19 remaining in regulation courtesy of Matt Calvert (Josh Anderson), but the Jackets couldn’t convert any more of their 32 shots on goal into markers.

 

St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Minnesota Wild – Game 1

Overtime game-winners in the playoffs can come from the most unlikely of sources. In Game 1, it was First Star of the Game Joel Edmundson that gave St. Louis the 2-1 overtime victory over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

No matter how hard Minnesota’s offense tried, it could not get past Second Star Jake Allen. The Blues’ goaltender saved 43 straight shots faced for an unblemished effort.

That is, until only 23 seconds remained in regulation. Zach Parise (Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund) scored a wrist shot to match Vladimir Sobotka‘s (Alex Steen) snap shot at the 6:21 mark of the second period to force the first overtime period of the 2017 postseason.

Similar to the Notes’ long playoff run a year ago, the Wild found its success when it made its presence known. Led by Jared Spurgeon and Chris Stewart‘s four checks apiece, Minnesota threw an impressive 28 hits in regulation to St. Louis’ 13, which led to 11 takeaways.

In all, Allen saved 51 shots faced before Edmundson (Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz) scored the game-winning wrister. It wasn’t the prettiest play the Blues have ever run, but they aren’t complaining. Tarasenko was crashing Third Star Devan Dubnyk‘s crease, but lost control of the puck before he could manage a shot. Fortunately for him and his club, the loose puck found the defenseman’s stick and he easily scored on Dubnyk’s stick side.

 

San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 1

The Sharks arguably entered the playoffs in their worst slump of the season, but those losing ways just might be behind them. San Jose beat Edmonton 3-2 in overtime at Rogers Place to take an early one-game lead in their first round series.

San Jose’s worst fears were realized in the first period, as Edmonton’s offense made it known that it has no trouble picking Martin Jones apart when he’s off his game. Both Oscar Klefbom (Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic) and Lucic (Mark Letestu and Connor McDavid) scored in the opening frame to give the Oil an early 2-0 lead.

Playoff experience is one of the most valuable things a club can have. Whether it was the Oilers’ offense not having much of it or the Sharks’ defense being able to match the hosts’ efforts (Edmonton managed only nine shots on goal after the first period), San Jose was able to fight its way back into this contest by constricting Edmonton’s attack. As a result, Joel Ward (Joonas Donskoi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) took advantage of Drake Caggiula‘s hooking penalty late in the opening period to score a power play wrist shot 1:43 into the second.

Paul Martin (Tomas Hertl) completed the comeback 5:22 into the final frame. He buried the rebound off Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s left pad after Hertl’s inial shot to tie the game at two-all and force the second extra-time game of the night.

It only took 3:22 of extra time, but that playoff experience was truly apparent in that time. San Jose fired six shots to the Oilers’ two, and the final one, a snap shot by First Star Melker Karlsson (Joe Pavelski and Valsic), was able to get past Talbot for a Sharks victory.

March 16 – Day 148 – Now the East is wild

It’s Thursday once again, my favorite day of the week. There’s a dozen games taking place tonight, starting with five (Philadelphia at New Jersey [TVAS], Winnipeg at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Washington [NHLN], Minnesota at Carolina and Florida at Columbus [TVAS]) at 7 p.m. Another pair of contests (Chicago at Ottawa [RDS] and Toronto at Tampa Bay) drop the puck half an hour later, followed by Boston at Edmonton at 9 p.m. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with two matches (Dallas at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona), followed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Buffalo at Los Angeles and St. Louis at San JoseAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Philadelphia at New Jersey: It’s the second rivalry game in as many nights for the Flyers.
  • Toronto at Tampa Bay: Not only is it the return of Brian Boyle to Amalie Arena, but it’s also an important game in the race for the Eastern Conference’s second wildcard.
  • St. Louis at San Jose: These teams combined to create a thrilling six-game series for the Campbell Bowl last postseason.

To put things simply, there’s a lot on the line in the TorontoTampa game that we just can’t miss.

 

 

 

 

 

Although Philadelphia‘s victory over the Penguins last night gave the Flyers a bit of playoff hope, it’s really a three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card going into the final 14-ish games of the season.

After last night’s action, the Isles have a one-point lead on 10th-place Toronto, and win the regulation+overtime victories tiebreaker against ninth-place Tampa Bay.

To keep math simple in regards to how tonight’s featured matchup effects the standings, know this: As long as the Islanders don’t beat Winnipeg tonight, the winner of this game will move into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference – at least for a day.

Even if all three clubs finish the night with 78 points (that happens if the Isles and Lightning both fall in overtime), Toronto takes over eighth-place with a game in-hand. In that situation, New York and Tampa Bay would remain in the order they’re in right now, but fall a step in the standings.

Clear as mud? Good.

With the most to gain this evening, the Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 31-23-14 record, which is already the most wins they’ve had since their 38-36-8 season in 2013-’14 (man, the East was stacked that year too). The main reason Toronto is having to work so hard for a playoff spot is due to its lackluster defense, which has allowed 198 goals against in 68 games –  the seventh-worst rate in the NHL.

More often than not, 27-15-13 Frederik Andersen has been the man between the pipes for the Leafs, and he’s done a better job than his .916 season save percentage and 2.73 GAA indicate. Although those statistics rank only (t)13th and (t)29th in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with at least 28 appearances, he’s performed well under the circumstances.

Those circumstances being, of course, a defense that allows 32.7 shots against per game, the third-highest rate in the entire NHL and worst among playoff hopefuls.

If there’s anything to get excited about regarding Toronto‘s defensive corps, its that Nikita Zaitsev, one of the seven rookies on the roster that gets regular playing time, is the leading shot blocker on the team, having registered 117 already this season. Not only will the 25-year-old continue to develop, but more high-class free agents will be attracted to Toronto this offseason to better bolster the blueline.

That being said, the Leafs‘ defense repeatedly shows they’re potential when they’re forced into a shorthanded situation. By rejecting 82.9% of opposing power plays, Toronto ranks eighth-best in the league on the penalty kill. Much of that credit belongs to Roman Polak, who leads the team with 31 shorthanded blocks.

Given the fact that the Maple Leafs drafted potentially the next greatest player in hockey (or at least the next greatest forward), it’s no surprise that they’re really, really good on the power play. What is surprising, though, is that it’s not Auston Matthews heading that attack. Instead, it’s fellow rookie William Nylander, whose team-leading 22 power play points have sparked a 23.5% penalty-conversion rate, the second-best mark in the NHL. Nazem Kadri has been responsible for a bunch of those goals – 11, to be accurate, which is the most in Toronto.

With arguably the most to lose tonight, Tampa Bay plays host this evening with a 34-26-9 record. Just like with Toronto, there is one main reason Tampa finds itself on the outside of playoff picture looking in – but it’s on the opposite end of the ice (or the same end, depending on how you look at it). Winners of their last four, the Lightning‘s biggest worry is offense, as they have managed only 187 goals this season – the 13th-fewest in the league.

No matter how hard Nikita Kucherov tries, he just can’t seem to pull the Bolts along. He’s having a solid season with his team-leading 69 points and 31 goals (both totals already career highs with 13 games to go), but his team simply will not follow him.

The fact that Tyler Johnson is the second-best forward on the team is all the proof I need: behind Kucherov, his 44 points and 19 goals are most in Tampa Bay. Those totals do not even break into the top-50 in the NHL. Simply put, more than one player needs to provide offense for a club to find true success, and I don’t trust Johnson to truly step up to fill that secondary role.

Of course, I can rail against the Bolts‘ offense all I want, but it’s hard to argue with a power play that is successful on 22.4% of attempts (fourth-best in the league). Kucherov is at the head of that attack too with his 14 goals, but it’s actually Victor Hedman who leads the team in power play points with 27 to his credit.

For division rivals (we’re using that term loosely right now), it’s surprising this is only the third meeting of the season between these two clubs. With both teams beating the other once this season, the Bolts have a slight edge in the series due to forcing overtime in their 3-2 loss on December 29 – the last time they met the Leafs.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [second-most in the league] and a 2.15 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] for 28 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hedman (45 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Kucherov (31 goals for 69 points [both tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Toronto‘s Jake Gardiner (+25 [leads the team]), Mitch Marner (37 assists [leads the team]) and Matt Martin (254 hits [leads the team]).

With a -128 line, Vegas seems reasonably confident that the Lightning will pull out a victory this evening with home ice. I don’t feel as confident in that pick, since I believe Toronto‘s offense is superior to Tampa‘s defense. It’ll be a good contest, but I like to Leafs to earn the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Roger Crozier (1942-1996) – The first two years of this goaltender’s 14-year career were phenomenal. Making his debut in Detroit in the 1963-’64 season, he won the 1965 Calder Trophy on a 2.42 GAA, followed a year later by hoisting the Conn Smythe with seven shutouts.
  • Duane Sutter (1960-) – Players selected 17th-overall are expected to produce. By winning four Stanley Cups in a row for the Islanders, this right wing did just that. He marked 45 points in those four Cup runs, including 20 goals.
  • Riley Cote (1982-) – This right wing appeared in four NHL seasons – all with the Flyers. An enforcer by trade, he now earns his paycheck as an assistant coach with Philadelaphia‘s AHL farm team.
  • Brandon Prust (1984-) – Calgary selected this left wing 70th-overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but his longest tenured team is the Rangers. He is still playing hockey professionally, but with Nürnberg in the DEL.

Scoring a goal every 10 minutes is usually a good way to earn a victory. That’s what the Bruins did for the final two periods to beat Calgary 5-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. That loss snaps Calgary‘s 10-game winning streak.

It was actually the Flames that opened the scoring, courtesy of an Alex Chiasson (Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan) wrist shot 9:23 into the game. Third Star of the Game David Pastrnak (Zdeno Chara) pulled Boston even 2:24 later with a wrister that proved to be the final tally of the opening frame.

6:04 after returning from the break, the score read 2-1 in favor of the visitors. First Star Brad Marchand continued his impressive season by scoring his 36th goal of the year, an unassisted backhanded shot. 70 seconds later, Dougie Hamilton scored an unassisted marker of his own, a wrister, to once again tie the score. Yet it proved to be Calgary‘s final goal of the night, meaning David Backes‘ (David Krejci) wrister with 8:57 remaining in the second period proved to be the winning-tally.

Matt Beleskey (Ryan Spooner and Drew Stafford) and Pastrnak (Marchand and Patrice Bergeron) provided two insurance goals in the third period to ensure Boston‘s victory.

Anton Khudobin earned the victory after saving 21-of-23 shots faced (91.3%), leaving the loss to Chad Johnson, who saved 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The back-and-forth between home and away teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series continues. After tonight’s victory by the club in white, the 75-53-22 road teams now have a one-point lead over the hosts in the series.

January 19 – Day 96 – Worth his Weight behind the bench? We’ll see…

It’s time to start taking our hockey-watching seriously, as there’s only eight days until the All-Star break. The first two pucks of the night drop at 7 p.m. (Dallas at the New York Islanders and Ottawa at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by the New York Rangers at Toronto. 8 p.m. marks the beginning of another pair of games (Washington at St. Louis [SN/TVAS] and Arizona at Minnesota), with Nashville at Calgary waiting an hour before getting underway. Colorado at Anaheim gets started at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Tampa Bay at San Jose (SN/SN1) – waiting 30 minutes before getting green-lit. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Dallas at New York: Welcome to the coaching game Doug Weight.
  • New York at Toronto: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but Michael Grabner also played for the Leafs last season.

It’s been a long time since we’ve featured either the Islanders or the Stars, so let’s head off to Brooklyn!

Unknown-2New York Islanders Logo

 

A long, long time ago, in a borough not too far from Brooklyn

Wait, we’ve got to set the mood…

There we go.

Anyways, Jack Capuano was called up to the big-time from New York‘s AHL club in Bridgeport – where he had held the same position since 2007 – to coach the Islanders on November 15, 2010.

To put things lightly, it was not the miraculous transition you read about in history books. After taking on a 4-10-3 club from Scott Gordon, the Islanders ended the season with a 30-39-13 record and in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The 2011-’12 season was better, as the Isles improved to 34-37-11, but Capuano’s teachings could not get them out of the Atlantic basement.

Playoff chances weren’t looking good for the Islanders during the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 season either. New York sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 18 games remaining, due in part to the Isles spoiling a seven-game home-stand by earning only three points.

Let’s give credit to Capuano for New York‘s spark  to end the season. They earned a point in the last 11 games to force themselves all the way into eighth place in the Conference and earn a playoff date in Pittsburgh. Although they would fall in six games, making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 was a big step forward for New York.

Capuano continued to build the club. Even though they didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2013-’14, New York got back into the postseason in 2015 and missed out on advancing to the Eastern Semifinals by only a goal, falling to Washington 2-1 in a deciding Game 7.

The Islanders finally earned that playoff series victory last year when they beat the Panthers in six games. It was their first postseason series victory since 1993.

Unfortunately, this season did not get off to a great start. The Isles currently have a 17-17-8 record and sit in last place in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Because of that, he was released on Tuesday, even though his record with the Isles is an impressive 227-192-64, given the team he started with six years ago.

In what is probably the most hilarious turn of events, Capuano was replaced this season by none other than Weight.

Why is that funny? Any good Islander fan can tell you who the captain of their club was when Capuano made his NHL coaching debut. Yes, that’s right: it’s none other than Weight.

Even more hilarious is that Weight is the assistant general manager of the Islanders. Even though he wasn’t the one making the final decisions, it’s partially his fault that Capuano struggled this season. Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Brian Strait were all allowed to walk in free agency this offseason, and Garth Snow and Weight only brought in Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd (currently injured), P.A. Parenteau (who they’ve since waived) and Dennis Seidenberg to fill the holes.

Martin: left wing. Nielsen: center. Okposo: right wing. All three forwards. Is it any surprise the Isles have struggled to score? Last season, those three players combined for 135 points, a total the Isles have struggled to replace. That is made evident by an offense that has managed only 119 goals, the 12th-fewest in the NHL.

Captain John Tavares has done all he can to try to save the Islanders, as his 32 points lead the team. In comparison to the three forwards lost, he has the best points total, leading Okposo by three. Tavares also has the club-lead in goals, with 16 to his credit, and once again he leads Okposo by three tallies.

The issue with the Islanders does not seem to be their primary or secondary scorer, but instead the tertiary Brock Nelson. Even though he’s the third-best forward on the squad this season, his nine goals among 23 points are not enough of a threat.

The Isles‘ power play has been a major point of concern, as they tie for third-worst with their 13.6% conversion rate. Nick Leddy joins Tavares in leading the club in that effort with eight power play points, but once again the captain has headed the charge in scoring with four man-advantage goals.

While not as bad as the power play, the penalty kill cannot be ignored as it yields goals on 20% of opposing power plays, which ties for ninth-worst. Calvin de Haan may spend only 1:39-per-game on the penalty kill (well below Thomas Hickey‘s 2:08), but he certainly makes an impact. His 20 shorthanded blocks are tops on the team.

Visiting the Barclays Center this evening are the 19-19-8 Stars, the fifth-best team in the Central Division, and 11th in the Western Conference. Dallas‘ issue this year is the same one they faced a season ago: goaltending. They’ve allowed 144 goals against, which ties for second-most in the NHL.

With four more starts to his credit, 9-12-4 Kari Lehtonen has been the man between the pipes more often than not this season for the Stars. But as his record indicates, things haven’t been going quite so swimmingly. He has a season .9 save percentage and 2.86 GAA, which is only (t)40th and (t)35th-best in the league among the 49 netminders with 13 or more appearances to their credit.

Even though they know their goalie has struggled, Dallas‘ defense has only offered average help. Led by Kris Russell‘s 115 shot blocks, the Stars have allowed 30.2 shots-per-game to reach Lehtonen’s crease, tying for 14th-most in the NHL.

Lehtonen continues to struggle on the penalty kill, leading Dallas to a second-worst 74% success rate. Even with Mark Giordano‘s impressive 32 shorthanded blocks, Lehtonen saves only 79% of opposing power play shots – the worst in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on include DallasTyler Seguin (44 points [eighth-most in the league] on 28 assists [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) and New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.925 save percentage [fifth-best in the league]).

The experts in the desert have marked New York a -105 favorite to win tonight’s contest. Given the fact that both the Islanders‘ offense and Dallas‘ goaltending are poor, it boils down to who wins the other end of the ice. Personally, I like the Stars‘ offense more than New York‘s defense, so I predict a closely contested upset this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Sylvain Cote (1966-) – The 11th-overall pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by Hartford, this defenseman played most of his 19-season career in Washington. He finished his career with a +39, but notched a +60 over his tenure with the Capitals.
  • Ian Laperriere (1974-) – This left wing was a seventh-round pick by St. Louis in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career in Los Angeles. The 2011 Masterton Trophy winner, he notched 336 points before being forced to retire with post-concussion syndrome.
  • Mike Komisarek (1982-) – Montréal selected this blueliner seventh-overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 11-season career. He was voted to the 2008 All-Star game during a 227 block, +9 campaign – the best season of his career.
  • Thomas Vanek (1984-) – The fifth-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo (still his longest tenured club), this left wing is playing his first season in Detroit. Although he’s in the 12th season of his career, he’s on track to have one of his best campaigns, averaging .55 assists per night (ties his 2012-’13 effort with the Sabres).

Thanks to Third Star Joe Pavelski‘s second-period insurance goal, the Sharks were able to knock-off bitter-rival Los Angeles 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Brent Burns (First Star of the Game Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson) opened the scoring early, burying his snap shot only 3:31 after taking to the ice. The Kings were quick to respond, scoring only 2:15 later on a Tanner Pearson (Derek Forbort and Second Star Dustin Brown) tip-in. The score remained tied until 4:18 remained in the first period when San Jose‘s Tommy Wingels (Michael Haley) scored his snapper to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

That lead doubled to two at the midway point of the frame when Pavelski (Joel Ward and Thornton) scored his wrister, but Los Angeles pulled back within a score off a Marian Gaborik (Kyle Clifford and Brown) wrister. That set the score at 3-2 going into the second intermission, which ultimately held to the end of the game.

Martin Jones earns the victory after saving 22-of-24 shots faced (91.7%), with Peter Budaj taking the loss, saving 24-of-27 (88.9%).

The Sharks‘ win was a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it pulled the visitors within five points of the hosts. Home teams have a 51-33-14 record in the series.

December 27 – Day 73 – Pacific Powerhouses

The worst thing about Christmas is that there was no hockey for three days. The world can be so cruel.

Fortunately, the NHL makes it all better by scheduling 10 games this evening, starting with four contests (Pittsburgh at New Jersey [TVAS], Washington at the New York Islanders, Ottawa at the New York Rangers [RDS2] and Boston at Columbus [SN]) at 7 p.m. and Buffalo at Detroit half an hour later. Minnesota at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m., with Winnipeg at Chicago waiting 30 minutes. Another wave of games gets underway at 9 p.m. (Calgary at Colorado and Dallas at Arizona), followed an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: San Jose at Anaheim (SN). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Washington at New York: It’s rivalry night in the Barclays Center!
  • San Jose at Anaheim: Same goes for the Honda Center!

Sorry Isles fans, but the biggest game of the night is happening on The Pond, and we’d be remiss to not give it our attention!

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The Sharks return from Christmas break riding a two-game winning streak with a 21-12-1 record, the best mark in the Pacific Division. They’ve found that success on an impressive defense and great goaltending that have combined to allow only 75 goals, tying for the fourth-fewest in the league.

Only two goalies have taken a turn between the pipes for San Jose this season, and most of the time it is 18-11-1 Martin Jones. He’s earned that record on a .919 save percentage and 2.08 GAA – the (t)17th and eighth-best marks, respectively, among netminders with 15 or more appearances this season.

I’ve said it multiple times this season, but most of Jones’ success this season has been a direct result of the impressive play of the blueline in front of him. Led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s impressive 63 blocks, the Sharks have allowed only an average of 26.2 shots to reach Jones’ crease per game, the second-lowest average in the NHL. Justin Braun, Brent Burns and Paul Martin have also been very important in this effort as well.

This success has carried into the penalty kill, where San Jose ties for ninth-best with a 83.5% kill rate. Braun has truly been on his game when down a man, as his 15 shorthanded blocks are the best on the team.

Playing host this evening are the 17-12-6 Ducks, the third-best team in the Pacific Division. The offense has led the Ducks‘ charge so far this season, scoring 95 goals – the 12th-most in the NHL.

Hockey’s version of the Ryan brothers has found far more success than their football counterparts. Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have 28 points to their credit to co-lead the team. Tag on Rickard Rakell‘s team-high 14 goals, and you have a potent Anaheim offense.

The Ducks‘ success has been almost entirely due to their power play. Successful on 24.3% attempts, Anaheim is tops in the Western Conference, and second-best in the league as a whole. Who to lead that charge than Kesler? He has 14 power play points, not to mention his seven man-advantage goals, for tops in the Ducks‘ clubhouse.

This is the second time we’ve featured this matchup this season, and this series is already three games deep going into this evening. The last time this matchup was featured was also the last time these teams saw each other, a 3-2 Ducks victory on the Pond 18 days ago. Anaheim leads the season series 2-0-1.

Some players to keep an eye on include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (24 assists [tied for third-most in the league]) and San Jose‘s Jones (18 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] on a 2.08 GAA [eighth-best in the league], as well as two shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]).

Even though it’s the Sharks with the winning streak, it’s hard to pick against the Ducks given their recent success against their rivals. I expect another good game on The Pond between these clubs.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mickey Redmond (1947-) – This right wing only played nine seasons, but he won two Stanley Cups during his time in Montréal. That being said, he spent more of his career in Detroit.
  • Bryan Smolinski (1971-) – The 21st-overall selection in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, this center played 1056 games over his career. He spent most of his career in Los Angeles, where he notched 191 of his 651 career points.
  • Jay Pandolfo (1974-) – This left wing was the 32nd-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey, he won two Stanley Cup titles – both with the Devils.
  • Fernando Pisani (1976-) – A right wing drafted by Edmonton in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, he would have been a lifetime Oiler if not for a season spent in Chicago.
  • Patrick Sharp (1981-) – Although drafted in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Philadelphia, this left wing is playing his second season in Dallas. He is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, all with Chicago.
  • Paul Stastny (1985-) – The 44th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, was this center to Colorado. He played eight seasons in Denver before moving to St. Louis in 2014.

December 9 – Day 58 – The Tank empties into The Pond

You made it through another week of work, so you deserve to watch some hockey. Washington at Buffalo gets things started at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (Columbus at Detroit and St. Louis at New Jersey). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Edmonton at Minnesota, with the New York Rangers visiting Chicago (NHLN) 30 minutes later. San Jose at Anaheim (SN) acts as this evening’s nightcap, getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list

  • New York at Chicago: It’s an Original Six matchup between two of the top teams in the league.
  • San Jose at Anaheim: This rivalry may not have existed 25 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching.

It’s been a long time since we’ve checked in on the Ducks, so let’s head out to the Honda Center!

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The reigning Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks are well on their way to making their second-straight playoff appearance, as their 15-10-1 is third-best in the Pacific Division. They’ve gotten to that position by playing some good goaltending and even better defense, yielding only 55 goals so far this season – the third-fewest in the NHL.

Martin Jones has only had three days off, but that hasn’t affected him much. He has a 13-9-1 record with a .92 save percentage and 2.04 GAA to rank (t)14th and seventh-best among the 36 netminders with 12 or more appearances.

An impressive GAA paired with a less-impressive save percentage is almost always due to an impressive defense. San Jose is definitely one of those cases. Led by Justin Braun and Brent Burns‘ co-leading 48 blocks, the Sharks‘ blueline has allowed only 25.8 shots to reach Jones’ crease per game, the best rate in the league.

Hosting that strong defense this evening are the 13-9-5 Ducks, the club sitting in fourth place in the Pacific Division. Anaheim is a well-rounded team, but I’m more impressed by their offense that has scored 72 goals this season, a total that ties them for 14th in scoring.

Ryan Kesler has been the man in charge of the Ducks offense so far this season, leading the club with his 23 points as well as his 12 goals. But, it hasn’t been just him. Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry join Kesler in the 20+ point club.

One of the main reasons for this success has been the Ducks‘ opportunistic play. Kesler’s 11 power play points has led Anaheim to converting 22.1% of their man-advantages, the sixth-best rate in the league. The incredible center has completed a lot of those attacks, taking credit for seven of the 19 extra-man tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (20 assists [tied for second-most in the league]) and San Jose‘s Jones (13 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league], on a 2.04 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Anaheim a -112 favorite, but I like the underdog in tonight’s contest. San Jose has a superior defense going against a slightly above-average offense. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong in my last few picks, so we’ll have to see if it’s the Ducks or Sharks that are grateful I’ve sided with NorCal.

Hockey Birthday

  • Germain Gagnon (1942-2014) – This left wing may have only played five seasons, but he played for four different clubs in that relatively short amount of time. Although he appeared on three Chicago teams, he played most of his 259 games for the Islanders.
  • Pit Martin (1943-2008) – 1101 games were played over 17 NHL seasons by this center, most of which with the Blackhawks. Although he never won a Stanley Cup, he did claim the 1970 Masterton Trophy.
  • Dana Murzyn (1966-) – Hartford selected this defenseman fifth-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his days in Vancouver. After playing his amateur days in Calgary, he joined the Flames in 1988 and played on the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team.
  • Petr Nedved (1971-) – Nearly half of this center’s career was spent playing with the Rangers, but he was drafted second-overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver. By the time his NHL days came to a close, he’d played for seven teams.

For the second time in four days, and coincidentally the same statecommonwealth, goaltending took the night off in the DtFR Game of the Day in favor for a barn-burner as Philadelphia beat Edmonton 6-5.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the visiting Oilers. Third Star of the Game Leon Draisaitl (Jesse Puljujarvi and Kris Russell) scored a snap shot 4:39 into the game to give Edmonton an early lead.

That lead doubled 4:35 into the second period when Connor McDavid (Draisaitl and Milan Lucic) buried a power play snap shot, but Philly reeled them in when Mark Streit (Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov) buried a slap shot 7:56 later to set the score at 2-1. The Flyers leveled the score with 6:36 remaining in the frame when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Andrew MacDonald and Chris VandeVelde) scored his first goal of the season with a snapper. Philadelphia scored again 19 seconds later to take their first lead, courtesy of a flying First Star Claude Giroux (Second Star Jakub Voracek) slap shot. The Oilers didn’t like that very much, so Andrej Sekera (Mark Letestu and McDavid) buried a shorthanded slap shot to tie the game at three-all going into an exciting final period.

As crazy as the second period was, the third was even more wild. With goals from Benoit Pouliot (Draisaitl and Sekera) and Oscar Klefbom (Jordan Eberle and Drake Caggiula) at the 3:07 and 5:12 marks respectively (Klefbom’s was on the power play), the Oilers had a strong 5-3 lead. But it would end up not even yielding a point. A Voracek (Shayne Gostisbehere and Giroux) power play snap shot pulled the Flyers back within a goal at the 6:31 mark, followed 5:40 later by a Giroux (Radko Gudas and Voracek) snap shot to tie the game. The game stayed tied until 89 remained – that’s when Michael Raffl (Voracek and Streit) buried his game-winning snap shot.

Steve Mason took the victory after saving 28-of-33 shots faced (84.8%), leaving the loss to Jonas Gustavsson, saving 25-of-31 (80.6%).

Philadelphia‘s home victory is the fourth-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day series. They join with previous home teams to set the hosts’ record at 33-19-8 in that series, leading the visitors by nine points.

November 19 – Day 38 – The rivalry that predates the NHL

Saturdays aren’t just for college football. They also offer tons of hockey.

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (SN) get things started at 1 p.m., followed three hours later by New Jersey at Los Angeles. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings with it five contests (Edmonton at Dallas [CITY], Winnipeg at Boston [SN], Pittsburgh at Buffalo, Toronto at Montréal [CBC/NHLN/TVAS] and Florida at Ottawa [SN1/TVAS2]), with three more dropping the puck an hour later (San Jose at Arizona, Nashville at St. Louis and Colorado at Minnesota). Chicago at Vancouver (CBC/SN) acts as this evening’s nightcap, getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Montréal: They might have faced each other more than any other teams in the NHL, but that never takes away from another game played.
  • Chicago at Vancouver: Another rivalry… well, kind of. When the Canucks were having a little more success, they had a knack for running into the Blackhawks for three straight postseasons. It created some very contested regular season games.

It’s been over a week since we’ve been to eastern Canada, so let’s head up to the Bell Centre.

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The rivalry between these sides predates any of us, hearkening back to tensions between the English and French immigrants to Canada. It has only evolved over the years, including the formation of the NHL and the Leafs, multiple expansions, Toronto departing for the Campbell Conference and finally rejoining the Canadiens in the same division.

This year’s Maple Leafs enter with an 8-6-3 record. The offense has been incredible for Toronto this year, but it has been absolutely horrendous defense and goaltending that has held them back from greatness by allowing 58 goals, the second-most in the league.

Frederik Andersen has started in net 15 times this season for a 8-4-3 record. To get there, he’s set a .907 save percentage for a 3.16 GAA, the 15th and sixth-worst effort in the NHL among goaltenders with at least eight appearances.

While those numbers leave much to be desired – especially after a 2.3 GAA a season ago – not all of the responsibility rests on Andersen’s shoulders. Even with Morgan Rielly‘s team-leading 35 blocks, the Leafs‘ defense has allowed 33.9 shots against per game, the worst rate in the league.

Interestingly, Toronto‘s penalty kill does not suffer the same fate of their even-strength defense. Only eight power play goals have been scored on the Maple Leafs for a 84.6% kill rate, the 10th-best in the NHL.

Last season, the Leafs‘ power play was second-worst in the league. A year later, they rank 10th-best, successful on 21.3% of attempts. 20-year-old William Nylander has been a big part of that turnaround, as he has seven extra-man points to his credit, including three power play goals to lead the club.

Hosting them this evening are the 13-3-2 Montréal Canadiens. Even though they’ve only earned one point in their last three games, the Habs are still the best team in the NHL, due in part to their strong offense.

The Canadiens‘ 58 goals are the third-most in the league, and much of that success has involved Alex Galchenyuk‘s stick. He has a team-leading 18 points to his credit to average a point-per-game.

Most of those points are assists though. Defenseman Shea Weber has been the man completing Galchenyuk’s plays, scoring seven goals already this season to lead his club.

As you’d expect, that offensive success has carried to the power play. Successful on 23.1% of attempts, the Habs rank sixth-best in the league with the man-advantage. Weber takes the charge on the power play too, with seven extra-man points to his credit.

These two have already met up once this season, with the Habs taking a 2-1 victory on this surface. It’s been a while since the Leafs have beaten Montréal, as the Habs are riding an 10-game winning streak against one of their biggest rivals.

That’s not to mention “recent” playoff results either. The Habs have swept the Leafs 8-0 in their last two postseason meetings, but those were in 1978 and ’79.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Montréal‘s Galchenyuk (18 points [tied for seventh-most in the NHL] for a +11 [tied for seventh-best in the league), Carey Price (10 wins [tied for most in the NHL] on a .948 save percentage [second-best in the league] and 1.63 GAA [third-best in the NHL], good for two shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Weber (+15 [tied for second-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Matt Martin (76 hits [leads the team]), Rielly (35 blocks and 10 assists [both lead the team]) and James van Riemsdyk (17 points on eight goals [both lead the team]).

Montréal enters with a -170 advantage, and they’ve deserved it with their play so far this season. Given the potency of their offense paired with Toronto‘s struggling defense, it should be the Canadiens‘ 11th-straight victory over the Leafs.

Hockey Birthday

  • Dennis Hull (1944-) – The Silver Jet was a left wing, playing 14 seasons. Most of those were with Chicago, where he scored 298 goals.
  • Reggie Lemelin (1954-) – Lemelin played 15 NHL seasons, most of which were with the Flames organization. The goaltender won the Jennings Trophy in the 1989-’90 season, allowing only 108 goals in 43 games.
  • Petr Sykora (1976-) – The 18th-overall selection in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey, the right wing played in six Stanley Cup Finals, winning one with the 2000 Devils and another with the 2009 Penguins.
  • Patrick Kane (1988-) – He was the first pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and I’d say he was worth it. Kane has won three Stanley Cups in his time with Chicago, not to mention a Calder, Hart, Lindsay, Ross and Smythe as well.

In our fourth overtime game in the last seven days, Pittsburgh bested the rival Islanders 3-2.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the visiting Penguins. Sidney Crosby (First Star of the Game Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz) took advantage of a Brock Nelson charging penalty to bury a power play snapper with 4:41 remaining in the frame.

New York struck back only 1:51 after returning from intermission. With Evgeni Malkin getting caught for roughing, Nelson (Ryan Strome and John Tavares) capitalized on the man-advantage to score a wrister. Only 43 seconds later, Second Star Anthony Beauvillier won a one-on-one matchup with Matthew Murray with a wrister to give New York a 2-1 lead. That lead didn’t hold until the second intermission though, as Trevor Daley (Phil Kessel and Kunitz) scored a slap shot with 6:05 remaining to level the score at two-all. That tie held not only to the intermission, but to the end of regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

84 seconds was all it took for Letang (Crosby) to end overtime with a wrist shot and earn the victory.

Murray earned the victory after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (90.9%), forcing Jaroslav Halak to take the overtime loss, saving 32-of-35 (91.4%).

With that result, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 23-12-5, favoring the home teams by 11 points over the roadies.

November 5 – Day 24 – Rematch, Vol. II

Exactly what Elton John said. So good for fighting, in fact, that we’ll have 13 of them, starting with a matinee featuring Minnesota at Colorado (SN) at 3 p.m. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings eight puck drops (Columbus at St. Louis, New Jersey at Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers at Boston [NHLN], Philadelphia at Montréal [CITY/TVAS], Buffalo at Ottawa [SN1/SN360], Florida at Washington, Edmonton at the New York Islanders [SN] and Vancouver at Toronto [CBC]), followed an hour later by two more (Carolina at Nashville and Chicago at Dallas). The west coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Calgary visiting Los Angeles (CBC/SN1), followed half an hour later by our nightcap: Pittsburgh at San JoseAll times eastern.

Short List:

  • New York at Boston: It’s an Original Six rivalry as well as hockey’s iteration of the USA’s most famous sports rivalry.
  • Buffalo at Ottawa: Another rivalry for the Sabres this week.
  • Philadelphia at Montréal: Dale Weise returns to the Bell Centre wearing white after spending three seasons with the Canadiens.
  • Calgary at Los Angeles: Kris Versteeg is also making a return to his home arena of a year ago, but he only played for the Kings one season.
  • Pittsburgh at San Jose: It’s the second and final Stanley Cup Finals rematch this year, this one taking place on the surface where hardware was distributed.

The Penguins and Sharks won’t run into each other again this calendar year, so we’re off to the Tank!

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Game 8 of the Stanley Cup Finals goes down tonight!

…Wait…

Well, it is the eighth and final meeting between the Pens and Sharks in 2016, and Pittsburgh has certainly had the advantage in that time-span. Not only do they have the Stanley Cup in their possession due to beating the Sharks four times in early June, but the Penguins already won the first rematch in Pittsburgh 3-2.

San Jose enters the night with a 6-5-0 record, even if they are riding a two-game losing skid. So far this season, they’ve found success in their defense and goaltending, allowing only 27 goals against.

Martin Jones has started all but one game this season, and has a 5-5-0 record to show for a .909 save percentage and 2.34 GAA. Those are both decent statistics, but I would contest that they’re due in part to the help he is getting from his blue line (and sometimes even forwards!), as three skaters (Justin Braun, Brent Burns and Paul Martin) have 20 or more blocks to their credit and three more have over 10 (Joe Pavelski, David Schlemko and Marc-Edouard Vlasic).

In the other corner, the 7-2-2 Penguins enter the Tank on a five-game point streak. While the Sharks are a defensive-minded club, the Penguins prefer to score with 31 goals already to their credit.

Leading the way for Pittsburgh as been Evgeni Malkin, who has 11 points to his credit to average a point-per-game. That being said, Sidney Crosby is hot on his tail with eight points on six goals. He’s appeared on the score sheet in each of the five games he’s played since returning from his concussion and has been a force to be reckoned with.

The Pens have been exceptionally potent on the power play so far this season. For every four extra-man opportunities, Pittsburgh has found the back of the net once – the fifth-best rate in the league. Michael Haley will need to keep himself contained if the Sharks want to earn a victory.

That being said, part of the reason the Sharks have been so strong has been their ability to negate penalties. Their 86.7% kill rate ranks sixth-best in the league, a good match for Pittsburgh‘s attack.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Pittsburgh‘s Marc-Andre Fleury (six wins [tied for second-most in the NHL]) and Malkin (six goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Pavelski (eight assists [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]).

The Sharks desperately want to defend the Tank and earn a win this evening given what happened the last time the Penguins came to town. Vegas has them marked to win with a -125. I don’t feel quite that confident, but that may be partially my bias. Whichever team is able to win the special teams battle, especially when Pittsburgh has the man-advantage, should walk away with tonight’s victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Cooney Weiland (1904-1985) – A center from Ontario, Weiland played 11 NHL seasons, 71.7% of which were with the Bruins.
  • Sergei Berezin (1971-) – A left winger from Russia that played seven NHL seasons. He started his career in Toronto, where he played 357 games and scored 220 points.
  • Alexei Yashin (1973-) – Another Russian, but Yashin played center. He was drafted second overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by Ottawa and played 850 games over a dozen seasons.
  • Toby Enstrom (1984-) – This Swedish defenseman is working on his 10th season in the NHL, all of which have been spent with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.
  • Nikolai Zherdev (1984-) – The fourth overall of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing has played six seasons in the best league in the world so far. Currently playing in the KHL, he’s most remembered for his four seasons in Columbus.

On a night where 24 goals were scored among five teams (Montréal was shutout by Columbus), a 5-1 Anaheim victory seemed par for the course in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Ducks struck first, waiting 9:05 before Kevin Bieksa (Third Star of the Game Corey Perry and Second Star Rickard Rakell) scored his first goal of the season on a power play slap shot. The eventual game-winner was struck 3:06 later when Rakell (Perry and Michael Sgarbossa) found Anaheim gold with a slap shot of his own. The third and final tally of the frame also belonged to the Ducks, this time a Jakob Silfverberg (First Star Antoine Vermette and Andrew Cogliano) backhander to set the score at 3-0 45 seconds before the first intermission.

With 6:37 remaining in the second period Vermette (Ondrej Kase and Josh Manson) scored a slap shot to give the Ducks a 4-0 lead. Arizona finally stopped the bleeding with a goal from Jamie McGinn (Radim Vrbata and Christian Dvorak) 3:09 later, but was unable to find another with the remaining time.

Rakell (Ryan Kesler) scored another insurance goal in the third period to put the final nail in the Coyotes‘ coffin.

John Gibson earns the victory after saving 21-of-22 shots faced (95.5%), while Louis Domingue saved 18-of-21 (85.7%) in the loss. He was replaced after 20 minutes of play by Justin Peters, who saved 10-of-12 (83.3%) for no decision.

With the Ducks‘ victory, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 14-9-3, favoring the home squads by four points.

November 1 – Day 20 – The Great Dane

We’re trying out our new DtFR mirror technology. I can only assume that a night with no hockey that aligned with the one night of the year when your neighbors give out free candy has you looking something like this.

Simmer down, kiddo.

Anyways, hockey’s one-day vacation has us feeling all types of withdrawals. Thank goodness we get a healthy serving of games today, starting with two at the usual time of 7 p.m. (St. Louis at the New York Rangers and Dallas at Columbus), followed half an hour later by four more (Boston at Florida [TVAS], Carolina at Ottawa [RDS2], Tampa Bay at the New York Islanders [NBCSN] and Edmonton at Toronto). 8 p.m. brings with it two puck drops (Buffalo at Minnesota and Washington at Winnipeg), with Calgary at Chicago trailing by 30 minutes. Nashville at Colorado finds its start at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m. the San Jose at Arizona (NBCSN) game starts, followed 1800 seconds later (that’s 30 minutes, guys) by Anaheim at Los Angeles, tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Tampa Bay at New York: Last year, the Lightning defeated the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games.
  • San Jose at Arizona: Mikkel Boedker spent eight seasons in Glendale before being traded away to Colorado at the deadline last season.
  • Anaheim at Los Angeles: You might have heard about this one. They call it the Freeway Face-Off. It’s kind of a big deal.

Eight seasons is a long time, and I don’t feel like we’ll have many reasons to go watch Arizona this season, so I’m drawn to the late game in the desert.

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Danish right wing Boedker was drafted eighth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Coyotes. He jumped right into the league that season, scoring 11 goals under head coach Wayne Gretzky, which tied him for sixth-most on the squad.

Boedker’s best campaign with Arizona was in 2013-’14 when he tied Radim Vrbata for the second-most points on the team with 51. But, as has been par for the course for the Coyotes since 2011-’12, it did not yield any playoff action.

Last season, Boedker shed his brick red sweater for a burgundy Avalanche uniform after being traded on February 29. It was all for naught though, as Boedker found himself on the golf course following the regular season for his fourth season in a row.

This offseason he joined a San Jose Sharks who knows a little bit about the playoffs, coming off a Stanley Cup run that fell just a series short a season ago. He has little to show for his work on San Jose‘s second line, notching a lone goal.

The 6-3-0 Sharks have played a more defensive game this season, allowing only 21 goals against – three fewer than the league average. Martin Jones has a .916 save percentage for 2.15 GAA, but he is getting a lot of help from his defensive corps. Four skaters (Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Paul Martin and Joe Pavelski) have 15 or more blocks to their credit, and their efforts have resulted in only 25.2 shots against per game, the second-fewest shots against per game in the league.

The 2-6-0 Coyotes would have to be classified as an offensive club, due to the fact that they definitely don’t play defensive hockey. They’ve scored 24 goals this season – on par with the rest of the league – led by Brad Richardson‘s seven points. That being said, it is Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting a lot of the accolades with a team-leading five goals to his credit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Arizona‘s Max Domi (six assists [leads the team]), Ekman-Larsson (five goals [leads the team]) and Richardson (seven points [leads the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (seven assists [tied for third-most in the league]), Jones (five wins [tied for third-most in the NHL]), Pavelski (11 points [tied for third-most in the league] on seven assists [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Joe Thornton (seven assists [tied for third-most in the league]).

Vegas marks Arizona with a +150 in almost every book, meaning that the Sharks are favored.

I’d say that’s a very safe bet.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Al Arbour (1932-2015) – Arbour won eight total Stanley Cups: four as a player (two of which were with Toronto) and four in a row as head coach of the New York Islanders.
  • Phil Myre (1948-) – This goaltender played 14 seasons in the NHL for six different teams. Four years after being drafted fifth overall in the 1966 NHL Entry Draft, he was on the 1970-’71 Montréal Stanley Cup winning team .
  • Tie Domi (1969-) – A right wing that played 16 NHL seasons as an enforcer, Domi is most remembered for his 11 campaigns in Toronto. Maybe son Max will give him a goal for his birthday.
  • Matt Moulson (1983-) – This left wing is in his third season with Buffalo. Two seasons ago he struck 41 points, the second-best effort on the squad that year.

October 30 – Day 19 – For Martin, violence is always the answer

Most Sundays, you’d assume there’s only going to be a few games on the schedule.

This is one of the busiest Sundays we’ve seen in a while with eight games on tap. Starting with Buffalo at Winnipeg at 3 p.m., there are four matinees taking place. Two drop the puck at 5 p.m. (Florida at Detroit and Philadelphia at Carolina), with Toronto at the New York Islanders (SN1/SN360) starting an hour later. Two contests get underway at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. (Los Angeles at Chicago and Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [NHLN/TVAS]) and Ottawa at Edmonton [RDSI] drops the puck at 9 p.m. Finally, Washington at Calgary, this evening’s nightcap, takes to the ice half an hour later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Florida at Detroit: Jakub Kindl returns to Joe Louis Arena. His office used to be in the other dressing room the last seven seasons.
  • Toronto at New York: Another player who’s called this evening’s arena home for the seven previous seasons, Matt Martin makes his way to the Barclays Center.
  • Los Angeles at Chicago: No returns here, just a friendly little inter-divisional rivalry.

Martin has seen far more playing time than his Floridian counterpart, so we’ll head to the Brooklyn.

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Left wing Martin entered the league during the 2009-10 season after being selected 148th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since his 2010-11 rookie season (he only played five games the season before), Martin has become well-known for his physical play. Before last night’s game, he’d thrown 2048 hits in only 445 games played (over 4.6 hits per game).

In fact, his physicality has already been etched into the NHL record books. Two seasons ago, Martin threw 382 hits. That’s eight more than he landed in 2011-12, which now ranks as the second-best effort.

As I said, he likes to hit.

Over the off-season, he joined a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that currently sits at 2-3-3, most recently falling in Montréal 2-1. Their strong suit this year has been with the puck on their stick, scoring 25 goals already this season (3.125 per game). They’re led by fearless rookie Auston Matthews, who has 10 points, including six goals. Both totals are team-bests.

Part of that success has been due to their opportunistic power play. Successful on 24% of attempts, the Leafs are the ninth-best man-advantage in the league.

So far this season, Martin has already landed 33 hits to average 4.125 a game. He’s behind schedule, but I’m sure he’d love to get back on pace against the club that didn’t resign him this off-season.

3-5-0 New York is in the midst of a two-game losing skid, most recent of which was their 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Penguins Thursday night. If you had to pick a part of their game to highlight, it’d have to be their offense, where they’ve scored 22 goals in eight games – the league average.

Brock Nelson takes a lot of credit for the Isles scoring with seven points to his credit. That being said, it’s been John Tavares who has been getting most of the praise a team-leading four scores.

A major facet of the Islanders‘ game that is keeping them together is their penalty kill. Holding opponents scoreless on 86.7% of the time when they’re a man down, New York is tied with Tampa Bay for the eighth-best rate in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include New York‘s Nelson (five assists for seven points [both lead the team]) and Tavares (four goals [leads the team]) & Toronto‘s Matthews (six goals [tied for the league-lead] for 10 points [tied for second-most in the NHL]) and William Nylander (10 points [tied for second-most in the league]).

Bets look to be off tonight, so that’s usually a good sign. Since Toronto has yet to win on the road, I’m leaning towards the Islanders taking tonight’s victory. That being said, we’re not watching this game for scoring or anything like that. We’re watching to see how chippy Martin plays against his old teammates. If he plays like I think he will, this might be quite the exciting contest.

Hockey birthday:

  • Andy Greene (1982-) – This longtime Devil is playing his 11th NHL season this year. The defenseman assumed captaincy last season following Bryce Salvador‘s retirement.

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in exactly the wild barn-burner I predicted.

Second Star of the Game Jakub Voracek (Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas) opened the scoring for the Flyers 9:48 after the initial puck drop with a slap shot. 3:14 (PI TIME!) later, Wayne Simmonds (Brayden Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere) doubled the home squads’s lead. The Penguins began their comeback at the 15:44 mark with a Third Star Sidney Crosby (Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson) wrister, follwed 43 seconds later by another Crosby (Hornqvist and Phil Kessel) tally, this time on a power play, to tie the score at two-all.  A dozen seconds after that, Matt Cullen (Tom Kuhnhackl) buried a wrap-around goal to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead that held into the first intermission.

Twenty-two seconds before the midway point of the game, First Star Evgeni Malkin (Kessel and Chris Kunitz) struck Pittsburgh gold with a wrister to give the Penguins an insurance goal. Sparked by the man-advantage, Claude Giroux‘ (Simmonds and Gudas) first goal of the season pulled the Flyers back within a goal at the 13:16 mark, followed 2:12 later by a Voracek wrister that squared the game at four-all going into the second intermission.

Only one goal was scored in the final frame, the Penguins‘ winner. Malkin (Olli Maatta) takes credit, his fifth tally of the year.

Marc-Andre Fleury takes the victory after saving 38-of42 shots faced (90.5%), while Michal Neuvirth earns the loss by saving 12-of-14 (85.7%). He replaced Steve Mason during the first intermission, who earns no decision after saving 10-of-13 (76.9%) and, for lack of a better term, being bailed out by his forwards.

Pittsburgh‘s win pulled the visiting squads within two points, but the home teams still own an 11-7-3 record in the DtFR Game of the Day series.