Tag Archives: McGinn

January 11 – Day 96 – Seeing red

Usually Thursdays are among the busiest days of the week, but this particular edition doesn’t quite fit the bill with only three East Coast games to offer.

Like it usually does, the action begins at 7 p.m. with a pair of contests (Columbus at Buffalo [SN] and Carolina at Washington [NHLN]), but the nightcap – Calgary at Tampa Bay (TVAS) – gets an early start at 7:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

Teams on the bye: Anaheim, Arizona, Boston, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Montréal, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Toronto and Vegas.

Fortunately, all three tilts are being broadcast nationally so no one gets left out on tonight’s fun. However, it is citizens of the United States that are truly the lucky ones, because they get tonight’s best matchup.

 

Hidden within this tilt between Southeast-turned-Metropolitan Division rivals is the homecoming of Mr. Game 7 to Washington for the first time since returning to Raleigh this offseason.

RW Justin Williams played the last two seasons before this one with W Alex Ovechkin and company. Following a successful seven seasons in Los Angeles that earned him his second and third Stanley Cup rings (not to mention the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy), the Kings left him unsigned and he joined the Caps on a two-year, $6.5 million contract.

Beyond the simple offensive prowess he had shown throughout his NHL tenure (he’d averaged .63 points per game for his career leading up to the 2015-’16 season), Williams was brought into the Washington fold to bring the very thing it had missed in seasons past: the clutch factor. The ability to take the ice in a Game 7 knowing they had the experience and scoring touch to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998.

Williams brought exactly what the Capitals expected as far as his scoring was concerned. Having scored .63 points per game for the first 14 seasons of his career, Williams managed a .62 in two seasons with the Caps to post 46-54-100 totals during his tenure.

However, Mr. Game 7 apparently didn’t travel from the West to East Coast, because he managed only 2-1-3 totals in five elimination games with Washington. In fact, even though the Capitals clawed their way back into last year’s Eastern Semifinal against Pittsburgh from a 3-1 deficit to force Game 7, all Williams can claim for his last three postseason games are six shots on goal. No goals, no assists. Heck, he even has a goal-differential of zero.

While I’m sure the Caps’ dire cap situation is the primary reason he swapped out red sweaters this offseason, Williams not delivering in the postseason like he was expected to must have factored into the decision to not resign him at least a little bit.

Regardless of the reason, Williams was presented with the opportunity to resign with the Hurricanes, the club with which he won his first Stanley Cup in 2006, on a two-year, $9 million contract. He pounced on the opportunity immediately.

So far, Williams has continued his stellar offensive production. With 7-19-26 totals alongside LW Brock McGinn and C Victor Rask on the Canes’ third line, he’s posting his .62 points-per-game while while also providing a guiding hand for a team with an average age of 26.4-years-old – 1.3 years younger than the league average according to hockeyreference.com.

That guiding hand is apparently working, because Carolina has a 19-15-8 record that is only one point behind Pittsburgh for the second wildcard spot.

We already talked on Tuesday about the impressive surge the Canes have been on lately, earning 17 points over their past 13 games with an 8-4-1 record. However, the next step for this Carolina team is to start beating some of the best teams in the league with a little bit more consistency.

The last six games the Hurricanes have played have been against teams currently in playoff position. In those contests, they’ve managed only a 2-3-1 record, and it’s due in large part to the defense meeting their match against some of the best offenses the game has to offer.

Usually, Carolina is one of the soundest defenses in the NHL. On the season, F Jeff Skinner (42 takeaways), D Jaccob Slavin (2.1 blocks-per-game) and F Jordan Staal (2.4 hits-per-game) have led the Canes to allowing only 29.1 shots against per game, the fewest in the league by half a shot.

Statistically, that defense is still unmatched. Over its past six games, Carolina has allowed only 28 shots per game, the fewest in the league since December 29. However, 11-4-2 G Cam Ward‘s numbers are plummeting from his season marks of a .907 save percentage and 2.78 GAA. How can it be that he’s managed only an .883 save percentage and 3.18 GAA in his past five starts?

Answer: solid offenses.

It is worth mentioning who these current playoff teams are Carolina has played lately: Pittsburgh (2-1 win), at St. Louis (3-2 loss), Washington (5-4 overtime loss), at Pittsburgh (4-0 win), at Boston (7-1 loss) and at Tampa Bay (5-4 loss).

Of these offenses, three are in the top-10 in goals-per-game, and for good reason: they have some of the best scorers in the league. In short, players on these teams (think RW Nikita Kucherov and Ovechkin, just to name a couple) don’t need much room to find the back of the net.

That would put the onus on Ward to perform better against these top teams to keep games close, as well as the offense to find a way to break through these clubs’ defenses with a little bit more success. However, with Carolina and Washington playing a home-and-home series tonight and tomorrow, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of 8-11-6 G Scott Darling for this evening’s matchup.

Darling hasn’t exactly been all the Canes had hoped he’d be when they acquired him this offseason, but he’ll get another opportunity tonight against the Metropolitan Division-leading 27-13-3 Capitals. Washington is rolling right now, as they’ve won five-straight and earned points in 11 of their past 12 games with a 9-1-2 record.

Just like Carolina, Washington is finding much of its success on the defensive end with solid play from RW Alex Chiasson, 24-8-0 G Braden Holtby, D Dmitry Orlov, D Brooks Orpik and RW Tom Wilson, but we tackled that conversation Sunday.

Instead, let’s talk offense.

We’ve already mentioned Ovechkin and the stellar season he’s having. Posting 27-19-46 points (a goal total that ties Kucherov for most in the NHL), he’s well on his way to having his best season since the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 campaign where he registered 56 points in 48 games.

He’s certainly been the hero during this impressive run the Caps have been on since December 12, but he’s also received tremendous support from D John Carlson and C Nicklas Backstrom, who’ve earned respective 3-9-12 and 4-7-11 marks over their past dozen games.

This offensive explosion has been happening all season for Carlson, who must have gleaned a thing or two from D Kevin Shattenkirk‘s short stay in the capital. He’s already posted 5-29-34 totals for the season in his first 43 games played, and if he continues on his pace, he may very well have a season even better than his 12-43-55 career year in 2014-’15.

Tonight marks Game 2 of four between these clubs for the 2017-’18 regular season. The Capitals made the trip down I-95 on January 2. Even though Rask managed to post a two-goal night, Ovechkin was able to match him and score the most important tally of the game: the overtime game winner. Washington won the contest 5-4.

With Darling in net on the road in a usually hostile environment, I have a hard time of seeing the Canes pulling out the victory tonight. However, they will have more than their fair shot at evening the weekend series tomorrow when theses teams square off once again in Raleigh.


In yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the Minnesota Wild snapped their four-game road losing skid by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 at United Center.

Making it all the sweeter, the victory was of the come-from-behind variety, as Third Star of the Game D Brent Seabrook (D Michal Kempny and C Nick Schmaltz) – coming off his first-ever healthy scratch when Chicago played in Ottawa the day before – scored a wrist shot with 7:36 remaining in the first frame to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

It took until the 9:58 mark of the second period for Minnesota to level the game. D Jonas Brodin (W Jason Zucker and D Mathew Dumba) was the guilty party, scoring a slap shot from the blue line for only his fourth tally of the season.

As for the game-winner, it was fired off First Star D Ryan Suter‘s (C Mikko Koivu and F Mikael Granlund) stick 3:03 into the third period during four-on-four play. Not usually known for his scoring touch (this was only his sixth goal of the year), Suter received a cross-ice pass from Koivu above the right face-off circle that he turned into a powerful top-shelf wrister that squeezed between G Anton Forsberg‘s left ear and shoulder – an area that is almost impossible to defend.

Another major player in the Wild’s victory was Second Star G Devan Dubnyk, who saved 34-of-35 shots faced (.971 save percentage) to earn the victory. That left Forsberg with the loss after he saved 25-of-27 (.926).

Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are showing life lately, as they’ve earned points in three of the last four contests. However, the series is still dominated by the 54-30-12 home teams, as they still have a 24-point advantage.

December 19 – Day 76 – Predator drones

If you only went off the NHL schedule, you might think that today is a Saturday, but it is in fact a Tuesday.

Have I lost you yet?

Allow me to explain: the day’s first game, Carolina at Toronto, is slated to drop the puck at 2 p.m. today, five hours before you’d expect for a week game. Once the matinee is out of the way, three games (Detroit at the New York Islanders, Anaheim at the New York Rangers and Minnesota at Ottawa [RDS]) will get started at 7 p.m., followed by Boston at Buffalo (NBCSN/SN/TVAS) half an hour later. Winnipeg at Nashville finds its start at 8 p.m., trailed 30 minutes later by Washington at Dallas and Florida at Arizona at 9 p.m. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – Montréal at Vancouver (RDS/TSN2) and Tampa Bay at Vegas (SN1) – get green lit at 10 p.m. to close the evening out. All times Eastern.

The Bruins-Sabres rivalry comes to life tonight, and W Jamie McGinn and RW Radim Vrbata are making their first return to Gila River Arena since joining the Panthers this offseason. However, it’s hard to ignore the action in Tennessee, so it’s off to Nashville with us!

 

You’re hard pressed to find many better teams in the NHL than these two.

Of course, after a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, 21-7-4 Nashville leading the Western Conference wasn’t exactly unexpected. The Preds’ month of December has been a shining example of their style of play, as they’ve earned a commanding 6-0-1 record.

18-4-3 G Pekka Rinne has been nothing short of exemplary since flipping to the last page of his calendar. Having earned five starts this month, he’s posted a .948 save percentage and 1.74 GAA (both top-five efforts among the 41 goalies with at least three starts since December 2) to elevate his season numbers to a .93 save percentage and 2.25 GAA, making him the third-best goaltender in the NHL so far this campaign.

Making Rinne’s effort even more incredible is the fact that his defense, given its offensive contributions, leaves him more than his fair share of work. Even with D Alexei Emelin‘s team-leading 3.42 hits-per-game, F Filip Forsberg‘s seven takeaways and D Roman Josi‘s 2.28 blocks-per-game (all over the past seven games), he and 3-3-1 G Juuse Saros have faced 263 shots this month, the seventh-most in the NHL.

Of course, if any team is going to break through Rinne and Nashville’s defense, I’d bank on 19-10-5 Winnipeg, the Central Division’s third place team. Though they don’t come into tonight’s game on quite the hot streak the Predators are experiencing, the fact that the Jets’ offense enters the night averaging 3.26 goals-per-game to rank fifth in the league shows that they’re capable of going any night of the week that ends in -day.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1000 times: The Jets’ first line – specifically the talents of C Mark Scheifele (15-21-36 totals) and RW Blake Wheeler (8-31-39) – needs to be in the discussion for the most dominant in the Western Conference, if not the NHL as a whole (yes, Tampa Bay, we know you exist). Scheifele and Wheeler on their own might be able to take on most lines in the league, while adding LW Kyle Connor (10-9-19) into the mix to complete the line is not too shabby either.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Winnipeg is fortunate enough to employ W Nikolaj Ehlers (15-10-25 totals), RW Patrik Laine (16-11-27) and F Bryan Little (5-14-19) on the second line. Between the efforts of these two lines, Nashville’s defense just might be forced to consider performing their primary job descriptions a bit more than they would like this evening.

Given how often these teams have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series (a combined 19 times), it’s probably no surprise that I really enjoy watching both of these clubs and am confident they’ll be mighty forces in the postseason. However, only one team can win this evening, and I’m siding with the Preds. They’ve been nigh unstoppable this month, and the fact that they’re playing within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena should ensure they continue leading the conference for at least another night.


Even though C Adam Henrique buried a nifty backhanded shot in his return to the Prudential Center, the New Jersey Devils beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The first period was a defensive affair, as only a combined 13 shots were fired. That being said, the scoreboard read 2-0 at the first intermission in favor of the Ducks thanks to C Ryan Getzlaf‘s (F Rickard Rakell and D Josh Manson) snap shot at the 6:44 mark and W Jakob Silfverberg‘s (F Andrew Cogliano and Henrique) snapper 3:46 later.

New Jersey finally got on the board at the 8:11 mark of the second period on a power play tip-in by Second Star of the Game LW Miles Wood (D Sami Vatanen and Third Star W Jesper Bratt). Henrique (Manson) lobbed the puck over Vatanen to effectively assist himself to a backhander 3:10 later to set the score at 3-1, but the Devils pulled themselves back within a goal on Wood’s (C Pavel Zacha) second tally of the night, a wrist shot with 1:44 remaining before the second intermission.

If the Ducks controlled the first period, Jersey absolutely dominated the third, as they scored three unanswered goals to earn the victory. The first of those was buried at the 5:49 mark courtesy of Bratt (F Blake Coleman and F Brian Boyle) to level the game at three-all. That tie held until 4:07 remained in regulation when First Star RW Stefan Noesen (Boyle and D Andy Greene) scored the game-winning marker.

After Boyle centered a pass to him from the blue line, Noesen tried to rip a wrister past G Ryan Miller, but the netminder aggressively deflected the puck away. Unfortunately for him, that move left his cage yawning, and Noesen was able to collect the loose puck and bury it into the back of the net.

With seven seconds remaining in the game, Noesen (Boyle) scored a wrister on an empty net to secure the Devils’ second-consecutive victory.

G Cory Schneider earned the victory after saving 21-of-24 shots faced (.875 save percentage), leaving the loss to Miller, who saved 29-of-33 (.879).

There’s no stopping home teams lately in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as hosts have won four consecutive contests. This run of success has improved their record to 43-24-9 in the series, 20 points better than the visitors.

November 13 – Day 41 – Lookin’ for the Promised Land

Everybody makes a big deal about Fridays that are the 13th day of a month. Since Monday is everybody’s most-dreaded day of the week, shouldn’t Monday the 13th be the unluckiest day of the year?

Think about it and get back to me.

With two games on tonight’s schedule, there’s four teams hoping I’m wrong in my assessment. The first of those – Dallas at Carolina (TVAS) – is scheduled for 7 p.m., followed by St. Louis at Calgary two hours later. All times Eastern.

We could feature a game between two teams that are already in decent position in the league table, but I’m actually more interested in the Stars-Hurricanes game if for no other reason than to say we’ve finally featured Carolina in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

 

It’s time for me to back up the heaps of praise I poured on the Hurricanes this offseason.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the real reason for my confidence in Raleigh’s 2017-’18 team goes way back to the 2015-’16 season. In March of that year, the Canes went on a quietly solid 6-2-6 run that actually ranked 10th-best in the league. Whether by F Jordan Staal‘s gritty physical play (he averaged 2.4 hits-per-game that month) or D Jaccob Slavin‘s 1.8 blocks-per-game in March, that squad played solid team defense to keep shots off G Cam Ward and earn points in six-straight games.

The Canes pulled within four points of the then-second wild card Bruins (Philadelphia eventually qualified as the eighth seed), but that momentum died and they could not improve from 10th-place in the Eastern Conference. While surely disappointing at the time, the young Hurricanes showed promise for the future.

If that comeback story sounds familiar, it’s because the Hurricanes did almost the exact same thing last year. During March of the 2016-’17 campaign, Carolina was even better than it was the previous campaign, going an incredible 10-2-5 to lay claim to the best record of the month.

What makes this surge different than the one the year before is that it was absolutely driven by the offense. The Canes scored 54 goals in the month of March, six more than both Chicago and Pittsburgh (for those wondering, doing anything offensively better than the Blackhawks or Penguins – much less both – is a very good sign). F Jeff Skinner was the primary impetus behind that attack, as he registered 12-5-17 totals – and not a one of them occurred on the power play.

Once again, the playoffs were not in the cards for Carolina. Even though they climbed into 10th-place in the Eastern Conference and trailed – who would have guessed it – the Bruins by only four points for the second wild card, the Hurricanes could not find any success in April and ended the 2016-’17 season the same way they have since 2009-’10: watching the first round on TV.

The optimism remained as strong as ever though. This still young team has now performed brilliantly in crunch time of the NHL season two years in a row, showcasing both ends of the ice. Add in the fact that Skinner, Slavin, Staal and even Ward  are all still members of this year’s club (Ward and RW Justin Williams are the only two Canes still remaining on the team from their 2006 Stanley Cup season), and Carolina seemed poised to take the next step as a franchise and return to the postseason.

That’s what inspired General Manager Ron Francis to acquire talents like G Scott Darling, D Trevor van Riemsdyk and Williams this offseason. Surely adding these solid players – who between them have five Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy – would lead Carolina to the Promised Land!

As it turns out, the 6-5-4 Hurricanes have done just what they’ve done in previous seasons: get off to a slow start that necessitates those late-season pushes. For a season of excitement, 13th-place in the Eastern Conference was not exactly in the Canes’ plan.

It certainly has not been a lack of effort on the defensive end that has held Carolina back. Staal (2.3 hits-per-game) and Slavin (2.3 blocks-per-game) are still as busy as ever, and have led the Hurricanes to allowing only 29.2 shots against-per-game, the best effort in the conference and third-best in the NHL.

Instead, it’s Head Coach Bill Peters’ offense that is holding the Hurricanes back from glory. Even with Williams (2-11-13 totals) and Skinner (8-2-10) leading the way, Carolina has managed only 2.67 goals-per-game, the ninth-fewest in the league.

That all being said, perhaps the Canes are starting to turn a corner. After a rough October, Carolina is 2-1-2 in the month of November and has earned points in its last four games, including a 3-1 victory in Columbus Friday and a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks Saturday. LW Brock McGinn in particular has been on fire during this run, as he’s supplied four of the Canes’ 10 goals since November 4 from the third line.

Another team looking to make a return to the playoffs this season is the 9-7-0 Stars, and they’re off to a much better start in achieving their goal considering they occupy seventh in the Western Conference after 16 games played.

I know I say it every time we talk about Dallas, but it still feels so weird to think about: the Stars are winning on the efforts of their defense.

*shivers*

Told you it’s weird.

The Stars have allowed only 28.8 shots to reach 7-4-0 G Ben Bishop, which is tied for the fewest in the entire league. Though his play has not indicated it’s necessary, keeping a solid netminder with a .914 season save percentage under-worked sounds like an excellent way to earn two points most nights you strap on the skates.

Whether it’s been the work of fourth-liner RW Brett Ritchie and his 2.6 hits-per-game or D John Klingberg‘s 1.8 blocks-per-game, that work in the defensive zone may prove important tonight. After the completion of tonight’s game, the Stars board a plane for Sunrise, Fla. (ok, they’re probably going to fly into Miami) for a Tuesday night tilt with the Panthers.

What that means for tonight’s game is Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has to choose which game to start backup G Kari Lehtonen, who has a 2-3-0 record on a .914 save percentage and 2.4 GAA. Considering the Panthers’ offense scores a solid 3.31 goals-per-game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lehtonen take on the Canes tonight, especially since he beat Carolina in both meetings last season.

With two teams playing some of the best defense around, this game is going to boil down to who has the better offense. Since that is the case, I’m going to bet on forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin every time. Dallas should win tonight.


With two goals in the third period, the San Jose Sharks pulled off the 2-1 comeback victory against the Los Angeles Kings in the Staples Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

If not for D Tim Heed‘s hooking penalty against F Tyler Toffoli at the 7:49 mark of the first period, perhaps the Kings never would have found their lone goal. Instead, W Dustin Brown (C Anze Kopitar and D Drew Doughty) took advantage of the man-advantage only 41 seconds later to give Los Angeles a lead it would hold for nearly 40 minutes.

Though the Sharks fired 19 shots at Second Star G Jonathan Quick through the first two periods, they didn’t find their first goal of the game until the 5:42 mark of the third period. F Melker Karlsson (F Tomas Hertl and F Logan Couture) took credit for breaking through Quick’s defenses with a wrist shot to level the game at one-all.

With 7:10 remaining in regulation, fourth-liner RW Joel Ward (F Barclay Goodrow and D Joakim Ryan) scored the third-and-final goal of the night with his left skate. Caught in the corner by Doughty and F Brooks Laich, Ward shoved a pass up the far boards to Ryan at the point that he returned back down the boards to Goodrow, who was near the left face-off circle. The forward than tried to snap a pass to W Timo Meier on the opposite side of Quick’s crease, but it was intercepted by Ward’s skate and redirected right into the net.

First Star G Martin Jones earned the victory after saving 26-of-27 shots faced (.963 save percentage), leaving the loss to Quick, who saved 31-of-33 (.939).

The Sharks’ road win is a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it pulls the 21-17-3 road teams even with the 20-16-5 hosts.

November 4 – Day 23 – Friday nights have to improve soon… right?

It’s Friday!

Everybody’s getting off work, including most of the hockey players as there’s only six games going on this evening. The limited action finds its start at the usual time of 7 p.m. with Montréal visiting Columbus (RDS), followed half an hour later by Winnipeg at Detroit (NHLN/TVAS). When those games are complete, you can flip over to Arizona at Anaheim, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

If the standings are any indicator, the most competitive game of the night should be taking place in Orange County, so we’ll head there.

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While it is not  major, one aspect of this game that does make it a touch more intriguing is the presence of Jamie McGinn. The left wing started last season in Buffalo, but was traded at the deadline to the Ducks to bolster their forward situation. He scored 39 total points all last season – the best season of his career – but only two in the postseason as Anaheim fell in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

This off-season, he tested free agency to eventually sign with Arizona. Already this season McGinn has found the back of the net twice en route to a three-point campaign so far.

The addition of McGinn does not appear to be a major solution for the Coyotes, as they are the proud owners of a 4-6-0 record. In fact, goal scoring really hasn’t been the issue for the Coyotes as much as it has been their defense and goaltending.

Already this season in only 10 games played, Arizona has given up 37 goals, a total that exceeds the league average by 10 scores. That responsibility starts with the man between the pipes: Louis Domingue. Before last night’s shootout victory over Nashville, the 24-year-old goaltender had saved only 88.7% of the shots he’d faced for a 3.95 GAA – not numbers becoming an NHL starting goaltender, or at least one that will keep his job for long.

But he is far from the only one to take credit for the Coyotes‘ struggles. Before last night’s game, Arizona‘s goaltenders have been tasked with blocking 312 shots – approximately 35 per game. When the league average is a touch under 29, that’s a lot. Connor Murphy‘s 18 blocks have been good, but more skaters than him and Alex Goligoski need to contribute defensively.

Based on last year’s efforts, the team they’re facing tonight, the 4-5-2 Ducks, would be the perfect team to emulate, as Anaheim‘s 188 goals allowed last season was best in the NHL.

That was last year though. They’ve regressed to the mean so far this campaign, allowing 28 tallies after 11 games. John Gibson has a .911 save percentage to his credit, good for a 2.58 GAA. Gibson does have the luxury of Sami Vatanen playing in front of him, whose 26 blocks are tied for ninth-most in the league, but it could be argued that the top-two blockers for Arizona are doing better than Vatanen and Cam Fowler (13).

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Gibson (one shutout [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Arizona‘s Oliver Ekman-Larsson (five goals [leads the team]).

The Ducks are a solid favorite coming into this game with an impressive -208 associated with their name. With a line like that, it is probably unwise to pick against them.

Hockey Birthday

  • Howie Meeker (1923-) – Although he is the lone surviving member of Toronto‘s 1947 Stanley Cup-winning team, playing hockey was just the beginning for the nine-year right winger. After a stint as the Leafs‘ coach, the right wing transitioned to the broadcast booth, announcing for Hockey Night in Canada for almost 30 years.
  • Michel Therrien (1963-) – This is Therrien’s 11th season coaching in the NHL, and seventh with Montréal. He spent four seasons with Pittsburgh, including leading the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. His replacement the following season, Dan Bylsma, finished the work Therrien started and led the Pens to their third title.
  • Dustin Brown (1984-) – Drafted 13th overall by Los Angeles in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Brown has spent his entire career with the Kings, already winning two Stanley Cups. Interestingly, although he was signed in 2013 to an eight-year contract, Brown was relieved of all captaincy duties this season after leading the team since 2008.

The Battle of the QEW usually favors the home team, but that was not the case in yesterday’s Game of the Day when Toronto beat Buffalo 2-1.

The Maple Leafs waited only 4:08 before scoring their first goal of the night. Second Star of the Game Mitchell Marner (Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk) takes credit for the tally with a solid wrister. The lone score of the frame, Toronto took the 1-0 lead into the dressing room.

1:50 after returning to the ice, Marner struck again with an unassisted wrister to notch the eventual game-winner. It took that winning status only 4:08 later when Third Star Marcus Foligno (Johan Larsson and Sam Reinhart) buried a backhander to set the score at 2-1, the same score that held the remaining 34:02.

First Star Frederik Andersen saved 42-of-43 (97.7%) shots faced to earn the victory, while Robin Lehner falls after saving 27-of-29 (93.1%).

Toronto‘s first win in the DtFR Game of the Day series pulls the road squads within two points of the hosts, but the home team still has a winning 13-9-3 record.

Nashville at Anaheim – Game 7 – Rinne stands tall, Preds advance

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Pekka Rinne saved all but one of his shots faced to lead his Predators to a Game 7 2-1 victory in Anaheim.

Colin Wilson scored the first goal of the night at the 6:19 mark on an unassisted backhander.  Mattias Ekholm started the play in Nashville‘s defensive zone.  After collecting the puck along the near boards, he flipped it through the neutral zone to Wilson at the far blue line.  Mike Fisher entered the zone with him and split the defensemen while trying to collect a pass from Wilson, but the trio ended up skating past, leaving Wilson the opportunity to collect, advance towards the crease and score over Frederik Andersen’s glove hand.

Probably the most impressive feat of the period was actually Anaheim‘s defense, as they held the Predators off the board even through two overlapping penalties that caused a 40 second 5-on-3.

No, it continued to be the even-strength goal chances that bit the Ducks.  With 4:07 remaining in the frame, Paul Gaustad scored his first goal of the playoffs after assists from Shea Weber and Viktor Arvidsson.  As Anaheim was unable to score in the remainder of the frame, Nashville took a two-goal lead into the dressing room.

Arguably the strongest measure of Nashville‘s early success is the face-off dot, as they were victorious on 63% of puck drops.

The first real opportunity of the second period was for the Ducks on a delayed penalty against Roman Josi, but David Perron was unable to both corral the puck and put it past First Star of the Game Rinne.  The ensuing power play only yielded three shots, including a Jamie McGinn attempt that ricocheted off the crossbar of a wide open net.  Nashville actually committed three penalties during the frame, but the Ducks were not able to capitalize.

Once again, it was the Predators defense that stood tall.  Through two periods, Nashville had 18 blocks to their credit to Anaheim‘s nine, meaning that Rinne had faced only 22 shots.  In total, Josi had a game-leading seven blocks by the time the clock read zero.

Second Star Ryan Kesler finally got the Ducks on the board at the 1:45 on a carryover power play from the second.  His slap shot was assisted by Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm.  It was a tic-tac-toe play, as Lindholm passed to Silfverberg behind the net, who immediately centered the puck into the crease for Kesler to score, but that was all the Ducks had in them as they lost 2-1.

It didn’t help that they didn’t play very aggressively.  The game almost effectively ended on a delayed penalty against the Ducks, as the Predators worked the clock for almost an entire minute before the play was ruled dead.  Although they put up a good fight during the remaining minute or so, Rinne continued his stellar night to secure the win.

Rinne ended the night saving 36 of 37 shots faced (97.3%), while Andersen takes the loss, saving 18 of 20 (90%).

With that win, Nashville earns a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals and a date with the San Jose Sharks.  That series will begin at 10:30 p.m. eastern on Friday, April 29.  Those games can be watched on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

January 26 – Day 108 – Lehner’s Sabres to Sens Town!

With two goals in the second period, the Detroit Red Wings were able to beat the New York Islanders in Brooklyn 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

After Second Star of the Game Brock Nelson hooked Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards fired a power play goal after an assist from Pavel Datsyuk (his 18th helper of the season).  The Wings held the one-goal lead for only 5:36 though, as Nelson scored his 19th tally of the season off an assist from John Tavares to level the score, which held into the intermission.

Third Star Justin Abdelkader was responsible for Detroit‘s second goal of the night at the 13:29 mark, after assists from Henrik Zetterberg (his 24th helper of the season) and Larkin.  1:11 later, the Wings had their game-winner courtesy of First Star Danny DeKeyser.  Detroit‘s 3-1 lead held into the second intermission.

The Islanders tried to stage a comeback with a score at the 15:12 mark of the third, compliments of Mikhail Grabovski (his seventh tally of the season), assisted by Matt Martin and Brian Strait, but they could not manage to level the score.  The Wings‘ final goal of the evening was an empty netter from Luke Glendening, assisted by Darren Helm (his ninth helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.

Petr Mrazek’s record improves to 18-9-4 after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%), while Jaroslav Halak’s falls to 12-9-4, saving 22 of 25 (88%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-21-9, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.  Detroit‘s win was the first for the road squad in six games for our series.

It’s a busy Tuesday in the greatest hockey league in the world!  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games (Anaheim at Boston [TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by four more (Chicago at Carolina [NBCSN/SN1], Columbus at Montréal [RDS], Buffalo at Ottawa [BELL TV/RDS2] and Toronto at Florida).  Arizona at Winnipeg drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, followed by the co-nightcaps (Nashville at Vancouver and Colorado at San Jose [NBCSN/SN1]) at 10 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Ottawa and Toronto at Florida), and only one, Colorado at San Jose, is between current playoff contenders.  Tonight also marks the first return of Bobby Farnham to Pittsburgh, David Legwand and Robin Lehner to Ottawa and Brad Boyes to Florida.

Given how long he spent in the Canadian capital and that he should be starting this evening, lets give the nod to Lehner and the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres LogoUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight marks Buffalo‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, a series in which they have yet to earn a point.  Their most recent game under our observation was a 2-1 loss in Colorado on Wednesday.  The Senators have been featured seven times before tonight, and own a 2-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on January 13.

Legwand and Lehner both joined the Sabres from the Senators this offseason in return for the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (which Ottawa ultimately used to draft Colin White, who at the time, had yet to take the ice for Boston College).  Together, they’ve played a total of 49 games for the Sabres, but the organization is optimistic for Lehner’s future.

So far this season, Lehner has started all four games he’s played, but he has yet to even get the Sabres to overtime (0-3-0 record), giving up eight goals in the process  (.934 save percentage).  During his five-season, 86-game career in Ottawa, he earned a 30-36-13 record with a .914 save percentage.  He is expected to start tonight’s game for Buffalo against his old team.

The 19-26-4 Buffalo Sabres are currently last in the Atlantic Division, and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and NHL, leading only Columbus, and only by a point at that.  Although their position in the standings would not indicate it, their defense is actually on par with the league average (as measured by goals against), but their offense is absolutely horrendous and is the main reason the squad is considering tanking instead of making a playoff push.  You can read a more in-depth analysis of their game on Wednesday’s post.

The Sabres are currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 6-3 loss in Madison Square Garden last night.  A win tonight does have the chance to move Buffalo past Toronto in the standings, but at this point, Sabres fans might prefer to avoid winning as much as possible in hopes of a Jamie McGinn-Jack Eichel-Auston Matthews line.

The 23-20-6 Ottawa Senators are currently sitting in sixth-place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.  To get them to that spot, they play one of the better offenses in the league, but the reason the Sens aren’t in the playoffs right now is due to their atrocious defense.

Even with Erik Karlsson’s team-leading 136 shots, the Sens have only fired 1382 shots this season, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 137 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 22 tallies), sixth-most in the league.  Interestingly, those numbers have not relied on the special teams, as Ottawa has only connected on 18.24% (technically below league average) for 27 power play goals, led by Hoffman’s six.  They’ve also only given up two short-handed goals.

The defense is entirely to blame for Ottawa being out of the playoffs right now.  Even with Karlsson’s team-leading 99 blocks, Ottawa has allowed a whopping 1623 shots to reach 20-14-4 Craig Anderson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 152 goals against, second-most in the league.  Part of that defense is the penalty kill, which has only killed 75.63% of opposing power plays for 39 extra-man goals against.  The only saving grace of the penalty kill has been the 10 (yes, 10) shorties to their credit, led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s five.

Just like Buffalo, Ottawa‘s most recent game was against the Rangers, but the Sens won their game at home on Sunday with a three-game shutout.  A win this evening has the potential to move Ottawa into the “First Team Out” position in the Eastern Conference, but they will need Montréal and Pittsburgh to both lose for that to happen.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Buffalo‘s Evander Kane (147 shots and 107 hits [both lead the team]), Ryan O’Reilly (40 points, of which 17 are goals, with 10 being at even-strength and seven being on the power play [all lead the team]) and Sam Reinhart (three game-winning goals [leads the team]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (20 wins [eighth-most in the league] and three shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hoffman (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (41 assists [second-most in the league] and 51 points [fourth-most in the league]).

I’m picking Ottawa to win this one, mostly because they won’t be as worried about their defense doing their best impression of Swiss cheese since Buffalo‘s offense usually can’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Lehner’s record should fall to 0-4-0.

January 20 – Day 102 – We ain’t talking about no auto shop

Thanks to a two-goal third period to seal the deal, the Boston Bruins have won their third in a row after beating the Canadiens 4-1 in Montréal in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first period occurred at the 13:08 mark, courtesy of Max Talbot, his second of the season.

The Habs leveled the score at one-all 8:48 after resuming play with Third Star of the Game Mark Barberio’s first goal of the season, assisted by P.K. Subban (his 30th helper of the season) and David Desharnais, but the Bruins were able to take the lead again 3:11 before the second intermission with First Star Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner (his 18th goal of the season), assisted by David Pastrnak and Dennis Seidenberg.

Boston scored their first insurance goal of the evening at the 12:14 mark of the final period, scored by Pastrnak (his fourth tally of the season) and assisted by Zac Rinaldo and Joe Morrow.  The final goal was an empty netter from Brad Marchand, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 23rd helper of the season), setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Second Star Tuukka Rask improves his record to 16-13-4 after saving 38 of 39 (97.4%), while Mike Condon’s falls to 12-12-4 after saving only 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-20-9, favoring the home squad by 31 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday schedule makes way for a light Wednesday, as their are only three games taking place today.  The action gets started at 8 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits their old friends in Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS/SN), followed two hours later by Buffalo at Colorado (BELL TV).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern, when Minnesota visits Anaheim (NBCSN/SN).

There are no division rivalries being played tonight, and St. Louis at Detroit represents the only matchup between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While the BluesRed Wings game would be fun for a variety of reasons (Speaking of, I have not featured the Red Wings enough this season… We’ll consider that a note for another day), I’m attracted to another game tonight, as Buffalo visits the Mile High City with a couple of old friends.

Buffalo Sabres LogoColorado Avalanche Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will only be Buffalo‘s second appearance in the Game of the Day series, with their only other showing being a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on October 29.  Colorado has been featured twice before tonight, and own a 1-1-0 record in the series.  Their most recent game with our attention was 6-3 loss in Chicago on January 10.

With the Sabres visiting Colorado this evening, Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly will be making their first appearances in the Pepsi Center since being traded during the 2015 Entry Draft.

McGinn spent a total of 162 games over four seasons with the Avs, with his best season by far being his 2013-’14 campaign in which he scored 38 points (evenly split between assists and goals) and helped Colorado to their first division title in 11 years, although they could not advance beyond the first round after a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on home ice.

O’Reilly had a longer career in Colorado, playing 427 games over six seasons.  Similar to McGinn, O’Reilly’s best season was the division championship campaign, where he scored 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points with a 13.9% season shooting percentage, his best to date, although he has the potential to best that stat with a current 15.6% this season.  That strong shooting percentage is what he’s used to lead his team in scoring, with 17 goals to his credit.

The 19-23-4 Buffalo Sabres currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  Their success has been found on the defensive end, although they are still below-average in that end.

Even with Josh Gorges’ team-leading 98 blocks, Buffalo has allowed 1372 shots to reach 12-12-2 Chad Johnson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 120 goals against, 13th-most in the league.  The first step in improving this defense should be to beef up the penalty kill, as the special teams have only killed 79.28% of opposing power plays for 23 goals against (four below the league average).

The offense has been the main thing holding the Sabres back this season.  Led by Jack Eichel’s 143 shots, Buffalo has fired the puck 1368 times, of which only 7.7% have found the back of the net for 106 goals (led by O’Reilly’s 17 tallies), fourth-fewest in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has not found much success, the Sabres‘ power play has still been strong, scoring on 20.41% of opportunities for 30 goals (led by O’Reilly’s seven tallies).

The Sabres are currently riding two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Arizona on Monday.  A win tonight might do more harm than good at this point in the season, as it will take a miracle for Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs.

The 23-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently occupy fifth place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position.  The Avs play one of the top-five offenses in the league, but have not been able put their opponents away due also having a bottom-ten defense.

Even with Nathan MacKinnon’s 157 shots, Colorado has fired the puck only 1337 times, of which 9.8% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 22 tallies), fifth-most in the NHL.  Colorado‘s power play is slightly better than Buffalo‘s, as they’ve scored on 20.89% of opportunities for 33 goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s seven extra-man tallies).  That stat does come with a qualifier though, as the Avs have given up five shorthanded goals this season, two more than the league average.

As good as the offense has been, it’s a shame Colorado hasn’t done much to improve the blue line.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 143 blocks to his credit, 1454 shots have made their way to 16-12-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 130 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The shining spot for this defense has been their penalty kill, as not only have they killed 80.54% for 29 power play goals against, but they’ve also scored four shorthanded goals, led by Blake Comeau’s two.

The Avalanche won their most recent game 2-1 in Winnipeg on Monday.  A Colorado win has the potential to pull them within a game of Minnesota for the first wild card spot, but a regulation loss allows Vancouver to take their spot in the second wild card position.

Some players to watch include Buffalo‘s O’Reilly (39 points, including 17 goals, 10 of which were at even-strength, with the remaining seven being power play tallies [all lead the team]) and Colorado‘s Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Based on standings alone, you’d like to think the Avs would win this game regardless of location, but that defense does not leave me with a good taste in my mouth.  I think I’ll pick Colorado, but I believe it will be a nail-biter.