Tag Archives: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

Down the Frozen River Podcast #115- Welcome to Arby’s

Nick, Connor and Pete decide Connor should name his first kid “Tkachuk” while revealing their top-10 left wingers of their lifetimes. Also, Ray Emery, Arby’s and Marian Hossa.

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Another Golden Era of Expansion?

It’s a great time for the National Hockey League (ignoring the ongoing concussion lawsuit, poor officiating and [insert your favorite scandal from this season here]), but for league revenues there’s never been a greater time than now.

The Vegas Golden Knights slashed all preconceptions regarding expansion teams and how they are expected to perform and have shown the strength of professional sports in North America– any city*, including Sin City, can support a professional franchise.

*except for Québec City, apparently

Though it’s not the 1990s, where expansion in the NHL saw seven teams (the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers) enter the league from 1991 to 1999– and two more teams in 2000 (Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild)– the league is prime for another era of expansion.

The Golden Knights (2017) are just the first of who knows how many more teams to join the league in the 2010s and 2020s.

Seattle is on the verge of landing a franchise ready to hit the ice in 2020 (with an expansion vote expected to take place this fall) and Houston looks viable, given Houston Rockets (NBA) owner, Tilman Fertitta’s, expressed desire to ascertain a franchise both publicly and in meeting with NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman.

Fun fact, Houston is the largest North American market without an NHL team and looked like they would be part of a looming WHA-NHL merger in the 1970s, but the merger wasn’t finalized until 1979 and– after learning they would not be included in any form of a merger in 1978– the Houston Aeros folded at the conclusion of the WHA’s 1977-78 season.

For some reason there’s a notion in North American sports that 30 is a nice, even, wholesome number for the total number of clubs in a league. Take a look at how big the big leagues were 20-30 years ago and you’ll soon realize that 30 is just a number.

Only two of the four major professional sports leagues in North America have gone beyond 30 teams. The NHL is one of them.


So you want to buy an expansion team…

Well, for starters, you better have at least $650 million (U.S.) lying around, as Oak View Group is all but assured of bringing the league’s 32nd team to Seattle for that price tag. In sports, as in real estate, prices expansion fees only go up over time (so definitely have more than $650 million lying around after Seattle joins the league– assuming Seattle joins the league).

Want to bring back the Québec Nordiques? Good luck.

Québec City would be the league’s second smallest market and selling out 16,000 tickets doesn’t mean as much as it used to with media deals, corporate sponsorships, new markets and division balance (let alone conference balance) all at stake.

Butts in seats only matter for momentum– not ad dollars on TV.

Granted, people in seats laying eyes upon LED signage around the arena, now that’s still an investment and matters to an extent on the local level and/or organization itself for day-to-day operations.

But this league sees the big picture– national level attention, reaching a broader scope, true globalization of their league as the best league– let alone growth of the game.

Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs, is also the chairman of the league’s board of governors. He’s also head of the league’s executive committee. Old guard owner jokes aside, Jacobs has the final say on most (if not all) league management decisions, despite the existence of league commissioner, Gary Bettman.

Commissioners in all major North American professional sports work for the owners. Not the other way around.

The commissioner is the collective voice of the board of governors– the face of the league– but ultimately is not the singular directive power.

So at the Bruins season ending press conference, Jacobs was asked about the future of the league regarding the Golden Knights and potential expansion.

Québec just isn’t happening right now.

It’s been said time and time before and it’ll be said time and time again. And it was the main takeaway from Jacobs’s comments regarding further expansion on the near horizon.

Houston was name-dropped. Whether it’s relocation or expansion (and it’s likely another expansion at this point), the league will find its way to Seattle and Houston.

It’s hard to remember the journalistic duty of including the words “proposed”, “expected” or “just about soon to be announced at some point in the near or not so distant future” before mentioning Seattle, let alone Houston, given the known interest.

Maybe the Arizona Coyotes will relocate, you ask?

No. That’s not happening.

If the Coyotes were going to move, they would have moved already. Arizona is committed to Arizona. While the City of Glendale might not see the Coyotes as suitable partners, the Coyotes see Arizona as their true love.

Maybe the Florida Panthers are Québec’s last hope (or Houston’s best opportunity, if expansion fees are an issue) for relocation?

Sure, but as an “in case of an emergency” plan. Remember how the Atlanta Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg played out? If not, keep reading, but also, Florida has an owner that’s committed to Florida.

At least Patrick Roy will be back behind the bench for the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) next season.

Does market size matter if 16,000 season tickets are sold in a 700,000 population or 2,000,000-plus population?

No, but the media deal that accompanies the market and how many televisions it reaches, that’s where it matters.

Right about here is where things don’t stack up as well for Québec with other prospective expansion candidates, given the surrounding population outside Québec City and the conglomerate of Montreal Canadiens fans that dominate the province.

At one point in time two teams made sense for the province, let alone two teams in one city (Montreal). Nowadays, the Habs have too much of a stronghold– too big of a monopoly of fans. Yes, even among old Nordiques fans and their families who swore they’d never root for their intra-province rivals.

Bettman runs the league like the National Basketball Association, which, considering his background, sounds about right. The NHL’s profits have never been higher and Bettman deserves credit for the business side of the sport.

And the NBA is eyeing expansion of their own, following renovations to KeyArena/Seattle Center, where Oak View Group looks to land an expansion NHL team for the 2020-21 season. In addition to Seattle, the NBA’s apparently eyeing Kansas City, lending some to believe we might be in another golden era of expansion across all major North American professional sports leagues as Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, has indicated a desire for MLB to expand to 32 teams (with Montreal and Mexico as possibilities).

As an aside, the author would like to let it be known of his desire for an MLB team in Charlotte, N.C.

31 is the new 30 and 32, 33 and/or 34 is perhaps the near future for at least three out of four of the Big Four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).


So about Seattle… (and other sports economics)

It’s totally happening, it’s just a matter of time. Get ready to cut the check for $650 million, Oak View Group.

And Houston?

Once Seattle goes for $650 million, there’s no reason not to expect the expansion fee to go up once again for a 33rd NHL team. Seattle’s not expected to begin play until the 2020-21 season and even without any of the major renovation work that’s going on in the Emerald City, Houston isn’t fully move-in ready for an NHL franchise.

That’s not to say Toyota Center isn’t a great fit, but rather that both Fertitta and the league aren’t presently talking and expansion to Houston would logically have to follow Seattle working with the current timeline of events (and ignoring what it would all mean for division realignment).

So four or five years from now a $650 million expansion fee could quickly become upwards of $800 million for a brand new team. Perhaps it’d be $1 billion by then.

And if Québec can afford a billion dollar (U.S.) pricetag by that point, then sure, they’ll be a shoo-in for the league’s 34th team. By then we might as well be talking 35th and/or 36th even.

Four divisions of nine teams doesn’t sound terrible if you can find suitable locations (Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Québec City and Atlanta, for example) to level off the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions.

This is the economy of sports in the 21st century and Bettman’s dream– so long as the value of the majority of NHL franchises continue to climb and start to rival those of midpack/bottom NFL teams (the New York Rangers are valued at $1.5 billion according to Forbes– barely above the Toronto Maple Leafs $1.4 billion valuation)– and that’s ignoring how weak/strong the Canadian dollar is.

Granted, the average NHL franchise is worth around $594 million.

But as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (a mid-pack team in terms of franchise value again according to Forbes) just sold for $2.2 billion to David Tepper, one would expect NHL franchise values to climb as the future of American football as we know it remains uncertain and the success of the Golden Knights impacts NHL revenues in the coming seasons.

Again, sports franchises and real estate prices always climb. It’s only a matter of time.


Okay, so just tell me where does that leave Québec exactly?

Recall for a moment, if you will, May 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers were purchased by True North Sports and Entertainment and the downfall of Atlanta Spirit, LLC. began (or more accurately, continued).

Yes, Winnipeg got an NHL team back, but they had to essentially go through relegation to get back to the top.

The Winnipeg model of “being sent down to the minors”  for almost 20 years witnessed near sellout crowds in the smallest NHL arena currently (15,321 seats) for AHL games.

That’s great, but the Jets weren’t going to be the Jets again if there was a prospective local buyer in Atlanta interested in busting up Atlanta Spirit, LLC. seven years ago.

There wasn’t, so True North Sports and Entertainment’s rainy day fund came in handy when the league needed a venue for a team immediately– regardless of the support and regardless of Québec, Hamilton or Kansas City’s moaning and groaning (from prospective owners and/or fans).

Canadian fans and some American hockey traditionalists like to bring up “the success of the Québec Remparts” in their new arena (Vidéotron Centre, opened in 2015).

Oh you mean the QMJHL team that plays in a 18,259 seat arena and has been having declining attendance since maxing out around 14,000 their first year there (2015-16) and now sits around 9,400 or less (like all other Junior teams). Please go on and tell everyone how QMJHL support alone will persuade NHL eyeballs.

It would certainly help Québec’s cause for bringing back the Nordiques by landing an AHL team on top of their QMJHL club and continuously supporting the organization(s) a la Winnipeg circa 1997-2011.

None of this rules out relocation, but it does make expansion look slightly more attractive, provided someone (Quebecor or another prospective owner) can fork up over half-a-billion U.S. dollars.


Professional sports are a business of entertainment.

Again, professional sports are a business.

Hockey traditionalism would not profit as well as the league has been profitting today.

Plain and simple as that.

This is a league that does not have to contract– thanks to the salary cap, revenue sharing and constant work stoppages to renegotiate the number of dollars the league eats before dividing up for the players.

This is a league that has shown the sport can be played in any environment.

The State of Arizona produced Auston Matthews. The Arizona Coyotes have been in Arizona for a generation AND THEY ARE NOT MOVING. They’re committed to their fans and their hockey community, but they’re up against a local government that’s unwilling to work with them on even the most basic levels– private vs. public funding for a new arena aside.

Tampa Bay, Nashville, Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim and yes, even Florida and Carolina have all been competitive and have diehard fans.

Sure the Panthers and the Hurricanes haven’t gathered casual eyes since 1996 and 2006 respectively, but you can’t blame the Panthers for being the Cleveland Browns of the NHL in a way (in addition to their poor location in Sunrise, Florida– outside of Miami) and Tom Dundon for any Hurricanes wrongdoings yet (though this summer is all about Carolina and how they just might reinvent themselves– and of course, everyone likes to jump to conclusions after a new owner’s first offseason, right?).

Plus, at least the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006. Your move Panthers.

But this league, like any major professional sports league, sees a game, entertainment and money to be made.

Tradition is just a sweater, a pregame ritual or a superstition. It’s not a revenue stream for reinvention over time.

Take it from NASCAR, where, coupled with changes back-and-forth in the rulebook every other week on top of overprotection of its traditional image (along with dried up ratings) have removed the basement from the very foundation of the sport– and possibly the sanctioning body as the France family mulls a sale of the entity itself.

Like it or not, we are in an era of expansion– not just for the NHL, but potentially for all four major North American professional sports (and MLS, if you really want to extend the product here, as expansion is wicked hot in soccer currently).

Should I mention we’re getting four more ads on the ice next season or have I already given everyone enough heart palpitations?

DeBrusk and the Bruins eliminate Toronto in seven games

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First Star of the game, Jake DeBrusk (2-0—2 totals), and the Boston Bruins are moving on to the Second Round after a thrilling 7-4 victory in Game 7 on Wednesday night. The TD Garden crowd was roaring throughout the game as Boston eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tuukka Rask made 20 saves on 24 shots against for an .833 save percentage in the win, while Toronto’s Frederik Andersen stopped 29 out of 35 shots faced for an .829 SV% in the loss. Rask improved to 2-2 all-time in a Game 7, as Andersen remains winless (0-3) in his career Game 7 action.

Bruce Cassidy started his Worker Bs line consisting of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari against Maple Leafs superstar, Auston Matthews, and the energy level cranked past 11 at puck drop.

Perhaps a bit too much for the Bruins, however, as Kuraly was penalized on a controversial tripping minor against Toronto defender, Jake Gardiner, 30 seconds into the action.

While Boston was struggling to settle their jitters, the Leafs pounced.

Patrick Marleau (3) opened the game’s scoring 2:05 into the first period with a tip-in from point blank and gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Gardiner (2) and William Nylander (2) had the assists on the goal.

Gardiner fired a shot from the point into heavy traffic where Marleau used his stealthy hand-eye coordination to redirect the puck past Rask.

Entering Wednesday night, the team that scored first won five out of the six prior games in the series. In games where Toronto has led this series, they’ve won. All of that would mean nothing by the end of the night.

Morgan Rielly followed up with a minor penalty of his own, giving the Bruins their first power play, as the Maple Leafs blueliner was sent to the penalty box for delay of game (puck over glass) three minutes into the period.

As was tradition in the regular season, Boston’s power play had several chances, but could not capitalize on the man advantage until late in the power play.

After David Krejci kept the puck in the zone on a Toronto clearing attempt, the veteran Czech forward sent it to his fellow countryman, David Pastrnak, who quickly fired a purposeful shot looking for DeBrusk in front of the goal to redirect it. And that’s exactly what happened.

DeBrusk (4) redirected the shot into the net and the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, on a power play goal at 4:47 of the first period. Pastrnak (8) and Krejci (4) notched the assists on the goal.

The game wouldn’t be tied for long, however, as Marleau (4) scored his second goal of the night on a wicked wrist shot that beat Rask blocker side. Mitch Marner (7) had the only assist on the goal, having been responsible for the reverse pivot— fake shot on goal, turned pass— that was enough to sell Rask just out of position to stop Marleau’s shot.

Just over six minutes into the first period, the Maple Leafs had a 2-1 lead. It was the third time in three games that Boston allowed a goal about a minute after scoring.

Almost three minutes later, Danton Heinen (1), who had returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for part of the series, rocketed a shot past Andersen to knot things up, 2-2. Krejci (5) and Rick Nash (1) assisted on the goal at 9:10 of the first period.

Halfway through the opening frame of Game 7, there were 11 combined shots on goal. Four of them were goals.

Past the halfway mark, Leafs defender, Morgan Rielly took a shot up high— just above his upper lip— that caused a stoppage in play while the blueliner was attended to by Toronto’s athletic trainer.

The Bull Gang scrapped off the blood on the ice and play continued. Rielly would return for the second period after getting stitched up.

Rick Nash caught Zach Hyman with a high-stick at 11:30 of the first period and sent Boston on a penalty kill. The ensuing effort by both Toronto’s special teams and the Bruins penalty killers did not result in any goals allowed and Boston once again swung momentum in their direction, feeding off of the home crowd.

With less than a minute remaining in the opening period, the Bruins worked the puck into the offensive zone, whereby David Backes worked the puck back to Kevan Miller and the Bruins defender took full advantage of everything he had.

Miller shot the puck intentionally wide to attain a carom off the boards on the far side. The plan worked flawlessly as Patrice Bergeron (1) was crashing the net and put home the rebound off the boards to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.

The assists went to Miller (2) and Backes (1) at 19:23 of the first period.

Through 20 minutes of Game 7, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and 12-10 in shots on goal. Boston also led in blocked shots (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (52-48), while Toronto led in takeaways (6-3) and giveaways (4-3). Both teams had 12 hits aside and one power play goal, as the Maple Leafs were 1/2 on the man advantage and Boston was 1/1 heading into the first intermission.

The Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to blow two separate first period leads in a Game 7, but fear not, that provided just enough motivation to take back the game’s momentum in the second frame.

Toronto stormed out of the gates to start the second period as Travis Dermott (1) converted on a Bruins turnover to tie the game, 3-3, just 2:07 into the period.

Roman Polak (1) and Nylander (3) picked up the assists on the goal as the B’s started a tumultuous period of sloppy play all over the ice.

Tomas Plekanec knocked down Brad Marchand away from the play at 4:56 of the second period and was assessed a minor penalty for interference. Boston’s power play proved to be powerless, especially after Torey Krug failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

With Marchand chasing after the puck, Kasperi Kapanen (1) stripped the Bruins winger of the rubber biscuit and dangled one past Rask on a beautiful individual effort for a short-handed goal to give Toronto the 4-3 lead just over six minutes into the period.

Boston allowed two goals on two shots on net to start the second period and were snake bitten leading up to the second intermission.

After 40 minutes of play, Toronto held a one goal lead— leading, 4-3 heading into the third period. Boston led in shots on goal (25-16), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42) after two periods and the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9), hits (26-22) and takeaways (14-4). Both teams were 1/2 on the power play.

Krejci and Hyman took matching roughing penalties about a minute into the third period, resulting in 4-on-4 action, early in the final frame of regulation.

Four seconds later, Krug (2) redeemed his poor second period play with a one-timer goal that beat Andersen after the Bruins won an offensive zone faceoff. Miller (3) and Bergeron (6) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on the goal that tied the game, 4-4, just 1:10 into the third period.

Moments later, Tyler Bozak and Rick Nash couldn’t keep their hands off of each other as Bozak interfered with the Bruins winder and Nash retaliated.

Boston was pressing harder than they had in the end-to-end action that concluded the first period. The Bruins were looking to be the ones to score the next goal and they did just that, thanks to one of their rookies.

After working the puck up the boards, Krejci sent a quick, short, pass to DeBrusk (5) who bolted into the offensive zone, slide the puck under Gardiner’s stick, while taking a hit and went five-hole on Andersen to give Boston their second lead of the night, 5-4, at 5:25 of the third period.

Krejci (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Six minutes later, after surviving counter attacks from the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were on the prowl again, working the puck deep into the offensive zone, where Marchand slid the puck to Bergeron.

Boston’s alternate captain tossed the puck to Pastrnak (5) in the low slot and the 21-year-old star held onto the puck just long enough to let Andersen overcommit and leave a gapping net open.

Pastrnak hit the twine and the Bruins had the first two-goal lead of the night, 6-4, at 11:39 of the third period.

With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Babcock pulled his goaltender for an extra skater and the Leafs went on the assault for a solid minute and a half until Riley Nash skated the puck out of the defensive zone and up to Marchand.

Marchand (3) brought it in just far enough to seal the deal with an empty net goal and gave Boston a three-goal lead with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Riley Nash (1) notched his first point of the series and the Bruins led, 7-4.

At the final horn, Boston had finished the Toronto in seven games— leading, 7-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal (36-24), hits (33-31) and faceoff win percentage (57-43). Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9). Both teams scored one goal each on the power play, as Toronto finished the night 1/2 and the Bruins finished 1/3 on the man advantage.

Bruce Cassidy completed his first series win as a head coach and is now 1-0 in Game 7s for Boston, while Mike Babcock fell to 3-6 all time in Game 7s, split between Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto.

The Bruins are now 3-1 all-time in Game 7s against Toronto, having last beaten them, 5-4 in overtime, in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Boston improved to 14-12 in Game 7s all-time, tying an NHL record for most Game 7 wins (14) with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. Wednesday night’s game was also the 26th Game 7 appearance in franchise history for the Bruins, surpassing Detroit’s 25 appearances for the league lead.

As a result of the win, the Bruins are moving on to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the Bolts won the Atlantic Division and secured the best record in the Eastern Conference, Tampa will have home ice in the series and Game 1 is set for Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC. Canadian viewers can follow the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #97- The One Without Connor McDavid

The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for a new general manager and Nick would like to be considered for the job. Meanwhile, Connor’s riding the hype train that is the Arizona Coyotes (and Florida Panthers, you know for their more realistic postseason expectations). Oh yeah, Petr Mrazek is not a good starter. Also the current playoff format is still bad.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #96- Hart to Hart Talk

Nick and Connor ponder whether or not Taylor Hall is a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate, which Western Conference team (NSH, WPG or VGK) will make the Stanley Cup Final and dive into the odds of the Florida Panthers making the playoffs and/or fielding a competitive team. Also, thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings and goaltender interference.

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Down the Frozen River Podcast #91- Our USA Wins Gold

After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games, Nick and Connor decided to create USA rosters with NHL players anyway. Also discussed, All-Star weekend, Jaromir Jagr and the Winnipeg Jets.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #90- Standing All-Stars

Nick and Connor breakdown the news and notes from the latest week in the NHL leading up to the 2018 NHL All-Star break. Mike Smith is going back to the All-Star Game and we’re celebrating with #DTFRMissionAccomplished.

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January 7 – Day 84 – Larsson is back in town

It’s the first Saturday of the New Year, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with hockey.

You’ll notice we’ll celebrate anything around here, and we always celebrate the same way.

There’s a dozen games being played today, so odds are good your favorite team is in action. Everything starts at 1 p.m. with a pair of contests (Tampa Bay at Philadelphia [NHLN/SN1] and Winnipeg at Buffalo), followed three hours later by Minnesota at Los Angeles (NHLN), the last day game. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it five games (the New York Rangers at Columbus [NHLN], Boston at Florida, Montréal at Toronto [CBC/TVAS], Washington at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS2] and Edmonton at New Jersey [SN]), with a another pair of games waiting an hour before dropping the puck (the New York Islanders at Arizona and Dallas at St. Louis). The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Calgary (CBC/SN), with Detroit at San Jose – this evening’s nightcap – waiting half an hour before getting green lit.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Toronto: It’s Original Six rivalry night in the Queen City!
  • Edmonton at New Jersey: Welcome back, Adam Larsson. Welcome back.
  • Dallas at St. Louis: Last season, these clubs met up in the Western Semifinals. The Stars may have been the higher seed, but it was the Blues competing for a Stanley Cup Finals berth.
  • Vancouver at Calgary: What’s better than a rivalry? A rivalry on the second-half of a home-and-home matchup. Tensions will be high.

One of the bigger trades of the offseason has helped put the Oilers solidly in playoff position. The beneficiary? A certain defenseman…

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Born in Skellefteå, Sweden, this defenseman made his way to the USA in 2011 after being drafted fourth-overall in that year’s NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey.

Lou Lamoriello was drawn to Larsson after two successful World Championships. Playing with the Junior Crowns in 2010 at both the World Junior Championships and the IIHF World U18 Championships, he won bronze and silver medals, respectively.

He got five good seasons in with the Devils, playing a total of 274 games. Although he only notched 69 points during that time, he performed his primary responsibility – keeping shots off his goaltender’s net – to a t. Headlined by his career 163 block campaign last season, he blocked 425 shots for Jersey.

Thanks to a trade only four days after the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Larsson now wears blue and orange instead of red and black. On the way to Edmonton, he passed Taylor Hall, the player traded from the Oilers to New Jersey. Since joining Edmonton, Larsson has only improved. He already has 119 shot blocks this season, and is on pace for 125 more.

Larsson and the 20-13-7 Oilers come to Newark in control of the third-best record in the Pacific Division. The defenseman has been a big help, but theme of the Oil‘s success has been their high-flying offense that has scored 113 goals, tied for the eighth-most in the NHL.

Have you heard of Connor McDavid? He’s kind of good at hockey. He’s already notched 45 points this season and is one of seven players to average more than a point per game. Even though only 14 of those points have been goals, but linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon join McDavid with 14 goals. 42 between the three of them is an impressive number made dangerous as opposing goaltenders don’t know who the final shot will come from.

The power play has also been a strength for Edmonton, as their 20.9% conversion rate is tied for the ninth-best mark in the league. Draisaitl has been the main man in this situation, notching 15 power play points. Most of those have been his 8 man-advantage goals, another statistic in which he leads the club.

Playing host tonight are the 16-17-7 Devils, the second-worst team in the Metropolitan Division. The main problem in New Jersey has been their struggling offense that has managed only 91 goals, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Although it doesn’t look like it’s going to yield a return to the playoffs, today’s featured trade has worked out equally as well for the the Devils. Hall leads the team with 25 points, although P.A. Parenteau has the goalscoring lead with a dozen tallies. Where Jersey has struggled is finding others to score the puck. Only three skaters have 10 or more tallies, which is far from enough to compete in the deep Metropolitan.

Part of the problem is that the Devils severely struggle on the power play. Even with Kyle Palmieri‘s team-leading nine power play points, Jersey has converted only 12.8% of their man-advantage opportunities. Once again, it’s the fact that there’s not a true standout completing plays. Hall leads the team with only four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Edmonton‘s McDavid (31 assists among 45 points [both most in the league]) and Cam Talbot (19 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New Jersey‘s Andy Greene (79 blocks [leads the team]) and Damon Severson (17 assists [leads the team]).

I know the Devils are playing on home ice, but I don’t see any way Edmonton doesn’t win their second-straight game. McDavid is just too good.

Hockey Birthday

  • Babe Pratt (1916-1988) – For eight of his dozen seasons, this Hall of Fame defenseman played for the Rangers en route to two Stanley Cup titles. A year after joining Toronto during the 1942-’43 season, he won the Hart Trophy on a career-high 57 points.
  • Mike Liut (1956-) – A fourth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 13 seasons in the NHL. Selected to the All Star Game in 1980-’81, he was also the recipient of the Pearson Trophy that season on a 33-14-13 record.
  • Guy Hebert (1967-) – Another St. Louis goaltending selection, Herbert was picked in the eighth-round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing most of his 10-season career in Anaheim, notching a career 191-222-56 record.
  • Donald Brashear (1972-) – Although undrafted, this left wing played an impressive 16 seasons – most of which in Vancouver. He was most known as an enforcer, earning a career 2634 minutes in the sin bin.
  • Alex Auld (1981-) – The 40th-overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this goaltender appeared in 10 NHL seasons, spending most of his time in Vancouver. By the time his career was complete, he set a 91-88-32 record.

A Vancouver 4-2 victory over the Flames in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day was worth more than a rivalry victory. It moved the Canucks into playoff position.

Calgary got things going quickly, scoring only 78 seconds into the game compliments of Third Star of the Game Michael Frolik‘s (Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk) wrister. The Canucks leveled with 9:11 remaining in the first period when Michael Chaput (Jack Skille) buried his first goal of the season. 2:18 later, Loui Eriksson (Second Star Markus Granlund and Alexander Edler) gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead with a wrister.

The eventual game-winning goal was struck with 22 seconds remaining in the second period. Thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty, Granlund (Bo Horvat and Jayson Megna) took advantage of the power play to set the score at 3-1.

3:18 into the third frame, Granlund (Nikita Tryamkin) deflected an insurance goal into net for the Canucks. Calgary tried their best to get back into the game, but they could only manage a power play wrist shot from Frolik (Backland and Mark Giordano) with 1:43 remaining in regulation.

First Star Ryan Miller earns the victory after saving 44-of-46 shots faced (95.7%), leaving the loss to Brian Elliott, saving nine-of-13 (69.2%).

The Canucks‘ victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 47-26-13, favoring the home sides by 14 points.

December 19 – Day 68 – Carlyle Cup

It’s a’ight though, the NHL has you covered with five games to take your mind off going back to work. The action begins at 7 p.m. with two contests (Nashville at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Detroit at Carolina), followed half an hour later by Anaheim at Toronto. Edmonton visits St. Louis at 8 p.m., and tonight’s contest – Calgary at Arizona – drops thee puck an hour after that.

We’ve featured tons of players returning to their old home arenas this season, but tonight the focus is the man behind Anaheim‘s bench: Head Coach Randy Carlyle.

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Carlyle’s first stint with the Ducks began before the 2005 season, followed only a season later by Anaheim‘s first Stanley Cup victory. He held onto the job until November 30, 2011 when Bob Murray pulled the plug after a 7-13-4 start.

He was only unemployed a little over three months before accepting the job in Toronto on March 2, 2012. He took over a 29-28-7 Leafs team that was only five points out of a playoff position, but he failed to spark the turnaround necessary to get the Leafs into the postseason.

Carlyle managed that turnaround only a season later, qualifying his club for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. With a 4-1 lead in Game 7, the Leafs got within 10 minutes of advancing to the Eastern Semifinals, but the Bruins stormed back by scoring three goals in the final 10:42 of the third period to force overtime – including two goals in the final 1:22 – and then Patrice Bergeron sealed the victory to eliminate Toronto from contention.

Since then, Carlyle’s club amassed a 59-52-11 before he was relieved of his duties on January 6, 2015. After a year and a half out of the game, he’s back where it all began to head the Ducks to a 16-11-5 record, good for second place in the Pacific Division. His team has found that success with a solid offense that has notched 90 goals already this season, the eighth-most in the league.

It’s been all about the Ryans for the Ducks so far this year, as both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have 27 points to their credit to co-lead the squad. That being said, it’s been Rickard Rakell who has arguably been most impressive, as he has lit the lamp 14 times to lead the team, and in only 21 games.

Much of that success is due to an impressive man-advantage. Anaheim is tied for the second-best power play in the league, finding success on 24.3% of their attempts. Kesler has truly been dominant with the extra man, as his 13 power play points and seven power play goals are both best on the squad.

Carlyle’s ex-club wishes they were having such success. After a hot start to the season, the Leafs have regressed to where most expected them to be: seventh place in the Atlantic Division. At 12-11-7, Toronto has struggled more on their defensive end having allowed 86 scores for the 11th-highest goals-against average in the NHL.

12-7-6 Frederik Andersen (yes, Ducks fans. That Frederik Andersen.) has been in net for all but seven of Toronto‘s games, and has earned a .919 save percentage and 2.63 GAA – the (t)18th and 25th-best effort, respectively, among the 43 goaltenders with 13 or more appearances.

While Lou Lamoriello was certainly expecting more from Andersen when he traded for him, the goaltender cannot shoulder all the blame as his blueline allows a whopping 32.3 shots-per-game to reach his crease, the fourth-highest rate in the game. With his team-leading 52 blocks, Morgan Rielly has done all he can to help his goalie out, but he and Nikita Zaitsev are the only two defensemen who have more than 40 shot blocks to their credit. Andersen has already proven in the past that he is a capable goalie when he is not overworked, so Toronto‘s next step in their rebuild should be to improve their defensive corps.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (24 assists [second-most in the NHL]) and Rakell (14 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) & Toronto‘s Auston Matthews (14 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]).

Given Anaheim‘s proclivity to score is matched with Toronto‘s willingness to concede, I’m liking the Ducks to earn Carlyle a win in his old stomping grounds. Of course, that’s all provided Matthews doesn’t try to screw up another one of my predictions.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Harvey (1924-1989) – 14 of Harvey’s 19 seasons were spent in Montréal, and he was not your average defenseman. A 13-time All Star, he hoisted six Stanley Cups with his seven Norris Trophies. He capped his career in 1973 when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Habs also retired his number two in 1985.
  • Eric Weinrich (1966-) – Another defenseman, Weinrich was drafted 32nd-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey. He ended up playing 1157 games over 17 seasons with eight different teams. He spent most of his time in Chicago.
  • Matt Stajan (1983-) – A second-round pick by Toronto in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, this center is in the midst of his eighth season with Calgary. So far in his career, he’s notched 390 points, including 139 goals.

It wasn’t the walk in Central Park I expected it to be for the Rangers, but they were able to defeat New Jersey 3-2 in the shootout in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Not a single score was struck until 24:37 had passed. Helped by a Marc Staal delay of game penalty, P.A. Parenteau (Kyle Palmieri and Damon Severson) got the Devils on the board with a power play tip-in. It was the lone goal of the second period.

8:10 into the final frame, the Rangers leveled when Chris Kreider (Mats Zuccarello and Brady Skjei) buried a snap shot. With 9:28 remaining in regulation, the Devils again stole the lead when Miles Wood (Adam Henrique and Palmieri) buried a snapper of his own, but the Blueshirts once again leveled, this time via Derek Stepan (Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein) with only 73 seconds to spare in regulation.

As neither team was able to break the tie in that time nor the five minute three-on-three overtime period, the game advanced to the shootout, where the Rangers elected to go first.

  1. Zuccarello made good on that decision when he scored, putting New York up 1-0.
  2. Parenteau tried to counter, but failed. His shot was saved by First Star of the Game Henrik Lundqvist.
  3. Jimmy Vesey was up next, but his attempt was rejected by Second Star Cory Schneider.
  4. Taylor Hall was called on next for the Devils, but his shot met the same fate Parenteau’s did.
  5. With the opportunity to win the game, Stepan tried to do too much and blatantly missed the net, leaving the door open for Jersey.
  6. Michael Cammalleri took advantage by beating Lundqvist to force the shootout to extra frames.
  7. Kevin Hayes must perform well under pressure, as he handled sudden death with ease. He improved the Rangers‘ shootout score to 2-1 to force the Devils into a miss-and-lose situation.
  8. Unfortunately, Severson did just that, failing to put his shot on frame.

Lundqvist earned his second win in as many nights by saving 29-of-31 shots faced (93.5%), leaving the shootout loss to Scheider, saving 25-of-27 (92.6%).

Not only was it our second-straight shootout contest, but it was the first home winner in the DtFR Game of the Day series since last Sunday. The home squads now have a 37-22-11, favoring them over the roadies by seven points.

December 17 – Day 66 – Vesey vs. Nashville

A total of 10 games are on tap today, more than enough for us hockey addicts. The action starts at 2 p.m. with two matinees (Philadelphia at Dallas and Arizona at Minnesota), but the excitement really starts at 7 p.m. when five contests drop the puck (Pittsburgh at Toronto [CBC], New Jersey at Ottawa [SN360], Anaheim at Detroit, Montréal at Washington [CITY/NHLN/TVAS] and Buffalo at Carolina). Another pair get underway at 8 p.m. (Chicago at St. Louis and the New York Rangers at Nashville), with tonight’s nightcap – Tampa Bay at Edmonton (CBC/SN360) – getting green lit two hours later.

Short list:

  • Anaheim at Detroit: These days, Detroit fans probably need the reminder of the glory days, and this old rivalry might do the trick.
  • Chicago at St. Louis: In case it was ever in question, these towns don’t like each other.
  • New York at Nashville: Ah, the drama.

I know there’s some good rivalries on , but since this is the only trip the Blueshirts will take to the Music City, we’ll follow the Jimmy Vesey saga to its conclusion.

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Vesey is just like you and me. He graduated from college (Harvard, so I guess he’s not exactly like you and me…) and was eager to look for a job. But, he had already been drafted by the Predators in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Sounds like a great situation, right? Immediate employment out of school! It’s everyone’s dream!

It was actually better than that. David Poile, the Predators‘ general manager, did not want to send Vesey to Milwaukee to play in the AHL. His plan was to have Vesey participating with the Predators as soon as possible for their playoff run.

Turns out, Vesey wasn’t too interested in being told where to go. The Crimson graduate showed his smarts – like you do with an Ivy League education – and played the NHL’s CBA like a fiddle. Drafted in 2012 and not singing a contract by 2016, Vesey had the right to decline the contract and become a free agent.

As you might expect, that rubbed the Predators organization the wrong way, but they realized they had to get something out of the situation. Poile shipped Vesey off to Buffalo, where he again declined the Sabres‘ offers. As made evident by his eighth-most points by a forward in Madison Square Garden, the rookie has laid down roots with the Rangers.

Those Blueshirts have an impressive 21-10-1 record that is good enough for second in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Besides signing Vesey, New York added tons of offensive talent this offseason, and that has yielded 108 goals, the second-highest scoring average in the NHL.

It seems the points leader in Manhattan changes game by game. Going into tonight’s contest in Nashville, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller co-lead the offense, each with 22 points to their credit. Of course, the most dangerous Ranger as far as a netminder is concerned is Michael Grabner, who has lit the lamp a team-leading 13 times.

As one might expect, that success has carried into the power play, where the Rangers‘ 21.9% success rate is tied for seventh-best in the league. An incredible six players top the Blueshirts with six power play points apiece, but once again a goalies’ biggest concern is the final goalscorer. Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Vesey all have four man-advantage goals to their credit to account for 57% of New York‘s extra-man tallies.

If the Predators were planning on taking advantage of New York‘s penalty kill they have another think coming. The Blueshirts refuse to yield a goal on 86.9% of opposing power plays, the third-best rate in the NHL. Kevin Klein gets this accolade, as his 13 shorthanded blocks are tops in Manhattan.

The Vesey-less Predators have had more bad than good happen to them this season (Vesey no doubt being one of the first line items), as their 13-12-4 record is good enough for only fifth place in the Central Division. On the ice, their biggest issue has been their goaltending that has allowed 84 goals already this year – at only 29 games played, that’s the 10th-highest rate in the league.

12-8-4 Pekka Rinne has started between the pipes for Nashville in all but five games, and has notched a .916 save percentage and 2.5 GAA in that time – the (t)18th and (t)20th best efforts, respectively, in the NHL among the 42 goaltenders with a dozen or more appearances.

The Preds are a defensive-minded team, made apparent by their 29.9 shots-against average that ranks 13th-lowest in the team. Mattias Ekholm takes most of the credit for that, as his 54 shot blocks are the most on the squad. That being said, a total of four skaters (Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban) have 40 or more blocks, so it has certainly been a team effort.

That defensive presence breaks down on the penalty kill though. Nashville ranks 10th-worst in the league at nullifying their penalties, successful only 80% of the time. This has been where Josi has shined, with a team-leading 13 shorthanded blocks to his name.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Nashville‘s Matt Irwin (+9 [leads the team]), Ryan Johansen (21 points [leads the team]) and James Neal (12 goals [leads the team]) & New York‘s Hayes (+15 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]), Grabner (+18 [tied for second-best in the league]) and, should he play, Antti Raanta (1.67 GAA on a .941 save percentage [both second-best in the league]).

Since Nashville‘s defense and goaltending will not be good enough to handle the Rangers‘ offense, this boils down to the Predators‘ breaking though New York‘s tough defense and keeping up on the scoreboard. I don’t think it will happen, and Vesey will be able to laugh himself to back to Manhattan with another two points for his club.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Hitchcock (1951-) – Hitch got his first head coaching job in the NHL in 1996, and he’s been involved in almost every season since. This season marks his sixth and final with the St. Louis Blues, who he got to the Western Finals a season ago. The highlight of his career came in 1999, when his Dallas Stars hoisted the Stanley Cup.
  • Frantisek Musil (1964-) – More commonly known by Frank, this defenseman was the 38th-overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars. That being said, he played 335 of his 797 games in Calgary and notched a +93 over his 14-season career.
  • Craig Berube (1965-) – After going undrafted, this left wing had a physical 17-season career, spending most of his days in Washington. By the time he hung up his skates, he notched 159 points to go with his 3149 penalty minutes. Currently, he spends his days in Chicago as the head coach of the AHL’s Wolves.
  • Vincent Damphousse (1967-) – Although drafted sixth-overall in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, this center played most of his 18-season careeer with the rival Canadiens. He hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1993, his first campaign playing in hometown Montréal.
  • Samuel Pahlsson (1977-) – Drafted by Colorado in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, this center played eight of his 11 seasons in Anaheim, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2007.  He finished his career with 199 points.
  • Matt Murley (1979-) – Some draft picks don’t pan out. Murley is one of those. Although a second-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, he only played 62 total games in the league.
  • Erik Christensen (1983-) – Another center, Christensen played seven NHL seasons after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2002 Entry Draft. By the time his NHL career was through, he’d notched 163 points after playing with five different clubs.

The 4-2 score is misleading, as the Sharks had control of yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day from the get-go, scoring three goals in the first period in Montréal.

Aided by a Paul Byron hooking penalty, the Sharks got on the board only 6:50 into the contest when Second Star of the Game David Schlemko (Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi) buried a power play wrist shot to give the Sharks an early lead with his first goal of the season. That lead doubled 3:10 later when Patrick Marleau (First Star Joe Thornton and Third Star Brent Burns) score another power play wrister. Finally San Jose scored in a five-on-five situation, as Timo Meier (Schlemko and Donskoi) scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game with 6:42 remaining in the first period, made only better by the fact that it was the eventual game-winner. The Sharks‘ 3-0 lead lasted them into intermission.

The only tally of the second period was the fourth-straight by San Jose. Melker Karlsson (Micheal Haley) takes credit with a backhanded shot at the 6:44 mark.

Montréal tried their hardest in the third period to stage a comeback. In the span of 3:20, Brian Flynn (Tomas Plekanec and Zach Redmond) and Jeff Petry (Michael McCarron and Daniel Carr) both lit the lamp once each to pull the Habs within two scores, but they were unable to do anymore damage.

Martin Jones earns another victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (92.9%), while Carey Price takes the loss, saving 14-of-18 (77.8%). He was replaced following Karlsson’s goal by Al Montoya, who saved all five shots he faced.

Just like the home sides did last week, the road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are on quite a little streak. They’ve won their last five contests to pull themselves within seven points of the hosts, who still have a 36-22-10 record.