Tag Archives: Mrazek

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 19

Skater of the Week: Nico Hischier

Boy, what a devil of a week for this kid, huh? HUH? (not even crickets chirp for this pun)

In four games, the 19-year-old centerman put up four goals (one in each game) and three assists for seven points, and is currently riding a five-game point streak overall. A +8 through the first three games was marred slightly by a -2 in the final game of the week, but any coach would gladly take a +6 week for any of his players. Perhaps the best stat in all of this, though, is Hischier’s shooting percentage throughout the four-game goal streak. In those four games, Hischier has only fired seven total shots at the net, leaving him with a ridiculous .57 shooting percentage.

With 39 points in 59 games, the league’s most recent first-overall pick is having himself a very solid year. With his Devils entrenched in the knock-down, drag-out dogfight that is the Metropolitan playoff race, he’ll need to continue his strong play to help New Jersey go from the basement to the playoffs.

Tendy of the Week: Antti Raanta

The Arizona Coyotes have won four consecutive games. This is not a drill.

For the first time since January of 2016, the ‘Yotes have strung together four straight, and Raanta is arguably the entire reason for it. In three starts and one relief appearance throughout the week, Raanta managed to string together a 3-0-0 record with a .976 save percentage and 0.91 GAA. The Finnish netminder started the week stopping 37-of-38 against Chicago, before stopping all 12 shots he faced against San Jose, turned aside 34-of-36 attempts by Montreal, and capped the week with a 40-save blanking of Edmonton.

Obviously Arizona is in no position to even entertain the idea of a playoff run, but they can at least have some confidence in the performance of Raanta this year. He currently holds a .924 save percentage and 2.45 GAA on the season, and is two wins under .500 on a very bad team.

Game of the Week: New Jersey Devils 5 @ Philadelphia Flyers 4 (SO), Tuesday February 13th, 2018

Who would have guessed that two bitter rivals fighting for position in the division standings would produce a fun game?

71 shots and 51 hits in a game that saw no major penalties looks a lot like a playoff stat line. Just good, hard hockey.

Things would get rolling shortly into the opening frame, as Claude Giroux fed a speeding Travis Konecny with a beautiful backhand stretch pass, allowing Konecny to steam past Will Butcher across the New Jersey blueline before firing a beautiful wrister past the blocker of Keith Kinkaid and putting the Flyers up 1-0 just 1:54 into the game.

The rest of the first and first few minutes of the second would pass scoreless, due in part to solid netminding, and arguably moreso to a symphony of goalposts. But 4:06 into the second the Devils finally knotted the scored, as Taylor Hall streaked down the left wing side and found just enough daylight between Michal Neuvirth and the post to squeak in the 1-1 tally. Hall would get absolutely buried by Radko Gudas just as the puck was finding its way into the net, but the hit was clean and Hall shoo’d away the tweetie birds in short order and looked none the worse for wear. Just 43 seconds later the Flyers would reestablish their lead as Michael Raffl took an indirect pass off the end boards from Andrew MacDonald and fed a turnaround pass to Scott Laughton in the slot, who managed to get just enough of it to get it past the pad of Kinkaid and across the goal line. Then about six minutes later a Radko Gudas point shot would redirect off of a New Jersey stick past Kinkaid to put the Flyers up 3-1, before John Moore would answer at the 13:17 mark with a bomb from the point that blurred past the glove of Neuvirth and drew the Devils back within one. Just under three minutes later it would be Philly captain Claude Giroux firing home a power-play goal from the left circle, but just 10 seconds later Nico Hischier would again cut the lead to one heading into the third.

Neuvirth and co. held the fort for nearly the entire third period, but a jam play in front would create a loose puck for a circling Taylor Hall who would pounce and send the game to overtime. The extra frame saw a pair of dazzling glove stops (Neuvirth on Hall just seconds in, and Kinkaid on a Voracek redirect with just over a minute remaining), but no more pucks would find twine until Drew Stafford continued his shootout mastery in the second round of the skills competition, and a Kinkaid stop on Voracek would end the game and give the Devils the victory.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Four ‘Blackhawks fans’ (I use the term loosely, as no one I’ve ever encountered that roots for the Hawks deserves to be lumped in with these lowlifes) were booted from the arena and later issued a permanent ban by the organization for shouting racial taunts at Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly as he was serving a penalty. Personally, I think they should have been invited into the penalty box with DSP as part of their punishment, but that’s just my opinion.

Speaking of the Blackhawks and Capitals, the two teams made a deal that sees defenseman Michal Kempny head to D.C., while a third round pick finds its way back to the Windy City, likely to be turned into a superstar player because Stan Bowman is a wizard.

Also on the trade front are rumors of Petr Mrazek being dealt to Philadelphia, who are currently relying upon third-stringer Alex Lyon after injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. As someone who owned Mrazek on their fantasy team at one point this season, I feel I am qualified to ask the Flyers why in the name of all that is holy they would want to do such a thing.

Editor’s note: Pete’s crystal ball was on point Monday night. Mrazek was shipped to Philadelphia in return for two draft picks: a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 and a conditional third-round pick in 2019. Detroit retained half of the goaltender’s salary. Read our recap here.

Nick Foligno is out for what looks to be a couple of weeks, and I’m not crying, you’re crying.

The Olympic men’s hockey tournament has been even weirder than we could have predicted, but after an early hiccup it looks like the Artists Formerly Known as Russia are set to steamroll everything in their path just as it appeared they should on paper.

Barry Trotz became just the fifth coach in league history to coach 1,500 games. Don’t let his ‘angry Russian mob boss’ looks fool you, Trotz is one of the nicest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I’d like to extend a sincere congratulations to him.

Dion Phaneuf and Marian Gaborik changed places, in a move that would have been landscape-shifting in the NHL in about 2008. Phaneuf did score in his first game as a King, because the hockey gods are just having all sorts of fun at Ottawa’s expense this year.

 

It’s looking more and more likely (depending on who you ask, anyway) that we could see Erik Karlsson dealt at the deadline. I’m not sure what sort of return that would yield, but considering some believe Jack Johnson is worth a first round pick, I’d have to assume that the Sens would legally own the first-born child of the other involved GM.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 18

Skater of the Week: Connor McDavid

It feels sort of wrong that he hadn’t won this until now. Just doesn’t seem possible, right?

Likely a byproduct of the abysmal season Edmonton is having, McDavid has been enjoying a solid if less-than-stellar season (he’s still put up 64 points in 54 games, we’re just talking about the arguable best player in the world) and hadn’t made this esteemed list until now. But with eight points in four games this week (including a four-goal, five-point performance against the almighty Lightning), Edmonton’s lord and savior has claimed the throne.

McDavid saw a five-game point scoring streak (seven goals, 11 points) come to an end in Edmonton’s final game of the week, but managed to put up eight points in the week’s three prior contests, so he definitely is worthy of the nod.

Tendy of the Week: Devan Dubnyk

In a week of slim standout goaltending performances (apart from Andrei Vasilevskiy making what might actually be the greatest save in the history of hockey), Dubnyk’s 2-0-1 record manages to stand out, particularly paired with his .950 save percentage and 1.96 GAA.

Apart from giving up four goals in the overtime loss to Arizona (which came on 40 shots, allowing Dubnyk to still manage a .900 save percentage), Dubnyk backstopped two victories over division rivals to cap a stellar week, turning aside 35-of-37 shots faced against St. Louis, and posting a 44-save blanking of Chicago.

The lanky Saskatchawinian (I have no idea if that’s a real word, but it was fun to say) hasn’t quite matched his ridiculous numbers from last season to this point, but he’s still been more than solid and has the Wild poised for another playoff run.

*Editor’s note: It’s “Saskatchewanian,” Pete. But close enough.*

Game of the Week: Detroit Red Wings 6 @ New York Islanders 7 (OT), Friday February 9th, 2018

Someone pick up the damn phone, the 1980s are calling.

This was one of those games that just made you laugh, because nothing about it made any sense. Three goaltenders played in the game, none of them posting a save percentage higher than .857 (Petr Mrazek had a frankly disturbing .759 and played for the team that DIDN’T switch goaltenders). Nine, count them, nine skaters had multi-point games, including a hat trick for Brock Nelson, a four-point outing for Henrik Zetterberg, and Mathew Barzal‘s five-assist performance making him the first rookie in 100 years to post three five-point games in a season.

But perhaps the zaniest stat of all was the way the goals were posted.

Detroit was all over the Isles early, dominating the first period and taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room. New York could only answer one time in the second period, before drawing to within one early in the third, only to have the Wings score twice more in a 2:12 span to regain a three-goal lead. But with about six minutes to play, Tyler Bertuzzi would attempt to chop off the leg of Cal Clutterbuck, giving the Islanders a five-minute major power play opportunity. An opportunity they would capitalize upon thoroughly.

Brock Nelson. 5-3. Anders Lee. 5-4. Nick Leddy. Tie game. Josh Bailey. The Isles now somehow lead this game 6-5 with 1:49 to play after scoring four times on a single power play. Who could have predicted this? Who could even believe this? Who is writing the script for this movie? Who’s got Mike Green in the slot? Oh, nobody does, and with 29 seconds to play the Red Wings complete the circus act to tie the game at six and force overtime.

Nelson would complete his hat trick to finally end the chaos 3:15 into the extra frame, but if we’re honest, everyone who watched this game were the real winners*.

*Except my father, who is still questioning how his team could score six goals and lose a hockey game.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Sidney Crosby scored the 400th goal of his career on Sunday against the Blues. I can only speak positively of him for so long at any given time, so I’ll just end this right here.

Lars Eller got himself a five-year, $17.5M extension with the Capitals, making him probably the highest-paid person in the world named Lars that doesn’t play drums.

Alexandre Burrows decided not to appeal his 10-game suspension for being an absolute piece of…err…I mean kneeing Taylor Hall in the head…a lot. Personally, I was really hoping he would appeal the suspension, and the league would respond by making it an 11-game suspension, just because it’s Alex Burrows.

Mark Scheifele is back off of IR, adding even more firepower to a Jets squad that might just screw around and grab a Presidents’ Trophy.

The Rangers basically announced in a letter to their fans that they are dropping the franchise on a landmine and starting over, which is probably disheartening to the fanbase, but New York was only one point behind my Blue Jackets when the letter was published so, like, I’m definitely not thinking about that when I try to go to sleep or anything.

Jack Eichel is out for at least a month after suffering a high-ankle sprain. This is devastating news for the Sabres, as they lose a key piece in their pursuit of a playoff spot. (Nobody say anything and let’s see if any Buffalo fans know that was sarcasm)

2018 Trade Deadline Preview: Metropolitan Division

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1. Washington Capitals– 31-17-5 (67 points, 53 GP)

After spending a couple of months figuring themselves out and weathering the storm that’s been Braden Holtby‘s second-to-last career worst season (his 2.76 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 39 games played are better and the same as his 2013-14 2.85 GAA and .915 SV% in 48 games played respectively).

It’s a bit of an off year for Washington, but even an off year for the Capitals is still a pretty good season, considering they’re currently first in a division that is more active than a lava lamp in terms of rising and falling.

Washington has a plus-11 goal differential through 53 games played despite the loss of Marcus Johansson in a trade with the New Jersey Devils this offseason and an injured Andre Burakovsky seeing limited time so far. That doesn’t even mention the loss of depth for the Capitals last July either– remember Justin Williams (signed with Carolina) and Karl Alzner (signed with Montreal)?

Luckily for the Capitals they only have about $412,000 in cap space as I write, so their trade deadline plans are pretty much already determined for them.

If they’re able to dump a guy like Brooks Orpik— and his $5.500 million cap hit that runs through next season– that would provide the organization with some much needed relief.

Potential assets to trade: F Jay Beagle, D Brooks Orpik

Potential assets to acquire: D Cody Franson (CHI), D Mike Green (DET), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ian Cole (PIT), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

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2. Pittsburgh Penguins– 30-22-3 (63 points, 55 GP)

After bouncing around the Metropolitan Division standings, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are currently four points behind first place in the division.

Much like his rival in Washington, Matthew Murray is having a season to forget. Injuries and the death of his father have taken a toll on the two-time Cup winning goaltender, limiting Murray to just 34 games thus far with a 2.97 GAA and .903 SV% (again, both career worsts– though he is in just his second full season since his 13 GP in 2015-16).

Despite their plus-three goal differential and gifted scorer (turned 2018 All-Star snub), Phil Kessel (24-41–65 totals in 55 games), the Penguins have been porous on defense. Pittsburgh’s best defenseman, Kris Letang, is a minus-15 through 52 games played.

Only Justin Schultz (plus-5, 38 GP) and Jamie Oleksiak (plus-6, 20 GP– split between Dallas and Pittsburgh) are positive plus/minus blue liners.

Since November, Pittsburgh has been trying to move defenseman, Ian Cole– though head coach, Mike Sullivan, has been forced to play him (thereby keeping him on the Penguins roster) due to injuries affecting Schultz and friends.

Antti Niemi didn’t pan out and bring stable backup goaltending to the Steel City (he’s since departed via waivers to Florida, then Montreal). Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have been left to pick up the tab with some impressive performances at times.

Midseason acquisitions F Riley Sheahan, as well as Oleksiak, have not been enough to fill holes left by Nick Bonino (the forward signed with Nashville in July) and Trevor Daley (left via free agency, landed in Detroit) respectively.

But with roughly $425,000 in cap space to work with currently, the Penguins can’t afford to make much noise on February 26th– but they should definitely snag a defenseman and rental backup goaltender.

Potential assets to trade: D Ian Cole, D Brian Dumoulin, F Tom Kuhnhackl, F Carl Hagelin, D Matt Hunwick, F Riley Sheahan

Potential assets to acquire: F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Cody Franson (CHI), D Mike Green (DET), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR), F Derick Brassard (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), D Erik Gudbranson (VAN), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), D Jason Garrison (VGK), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

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3. New Jersey Devils– 27-17-8 (62 points, 52 GP)

New Jersey has almost $8.000 million to work with currently as things approach the trade deadline at the end of the month.

The Devils are one of the biggest surprises this season east of the Mississippi River.

First overall pick in the 2017 draft, Nico Hischier, has been quietly setting the tone with forwards, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha in the resurgence of youth. Travis Zajac is back in his dominant, physical, ways and the Sami VatanenAdam Henrique trade has worked out quite well for both teams.

And that’s not even mentioning Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri.

Will Butcher is quite the offensive threat on the blue line and John Moore is firing on all cylinders. Despite Marcus Johansson’s concussion, New Jersey hasn’t faced much adversity in overcoming injuries this year.

There’s a lot of cap room to work with, but not a whole lot that this team can really give up to bring in the best guys on the trade market, like Evander Kane, unless the Devils are comfortable parting ways with prospects and draft picks (spoiler alert, they might be).

New Jersey really should be in the hunt for Kane, Rick Nash, Max Pacioretty, David Perron and other great offensive assets– either as the front-runner or the stealthy dark-horse that’ll make one or two big moves to carry them to glory.

The Devils have the time and space to add a veteran forward or defenseman that might eat some salary, but put them lightyears beyond their Metropolitan counterparts.

It’s a buyers market.

Potential assets to trade: F Ben Coleman, F Jimmy Hayes, D Ben Lovejoy, F Drew Stafford

Potential assets to acquire: F Evander Kane (BUF), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Mike Green (DET), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Rick Nash (NYR), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Tyler Bozak (TOR), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), F James Neal (VGK), F David Perron (VGK), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

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4. Philadelphia Flyers– 25-19-9 (59 points, 53 GP)

Aside from the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights, the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the league right now.

Goaltender, Brian Elliott, has found his top-notch form once again while Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux are rolling along. With almost $3.000 million to spend at the deadline, the Flyers could make some improvements to their team.

Trading away Brayden Schenn was costly for Philadelphia this offseason, but thankfully Jakub Voracek and the rest of the roster decided to pick up some of the points left behind by Schenn’s departure.

Adding Jori Lehtera, on the other hand, was a big mistake– both in production value and in cap management.

The Flyers could really solidify their offense with one or two moves and probably should anchor their defense with at least a depth blue liner or two coming down the stretch. Someone like David Perron, Patrick Maroon or Nic Petan could flourish in the Philly system. Meanwhile, a defenseman like Cody Franson would help put them over the edge if someone’s injured.

Potential assets to trade: D Radko Gudas, F Jori Lehtera, F Matt Read, F Dale Weise

Potential assets to acquire: D Cody Franson (CHI), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), D Nick Holden (NYR), F David Perron (VGK), F Nic Petan (WPG)

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5. Columbus Blue Jackets– 27-22-4 (58 points, 53 GP)

After getting a fast start out of the gate the Columbus Blue Jackets have really cooled off. It’s not that they’re a bad team, but rather, they’re just average.

Sergei Bobrovsky can’t stop the puck and play every other position too. Otherwise, the Blue Jackets would probably be first in the division. But good news, Columbus, you’ve got some cap space to work with at the end of the month.

As I write, the Blue Jackets have about $5.000 million to work with in cap room.

That’s good enough to bring in just about any player without considering what the future impact on the team his cap hit might have (unless Jarmo Kekalainen brings in a clear-cut rental player that won’t be re-signed in July). The point is this, Columbus has enough room to mess around with something valuable at the deadline, but they’re going to have to re-sign a plethora of core/future core pieces of the franchise this offseason.

The Blue Jackets aren’t doomed– they know their future plans more than anyone else.

But what could they bring in to make this team better? Someone. Is there anyone they could snag now and really shake things up as a contender moving forward? Short answer, yes.

For all of the return of Rick Nash to Columbus talk, well, that’s not ideal. Kekalainen should consider someone like Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers before taking back a guy like Nash– who will only break the franchise’s heart again in July when he goes back to the Rangers *bold prediction alert*.

Potential assets to trade: D Andre Benoit, D Jack Johnson

Potential assets to acquire: F Evander Kane (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF)F Blake Comeau (COL), D Mike Green (DET), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

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6. New York Islanders– 26-22-6 (58 points, 54 GP)

The biggest question heading into the 2018 trade deadline for the New York Islanders is the same one that’s been asked since Steven Stamkos signed his extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning– will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

New York has expressed that they are not looking to trade Tavares should things go detrimentally south between now and February 26th, but if things do…

The Islanders have almost $1.500 million in cap space to play around with before the deadline. They also have 13 pending free agents at season’s end, meaning there’s plenty of options the franchise could pursue.

Should Tavares get a raise and a long-term deal? Absolutely.

The  Islanders could pack it up and go home on this season given their injuries, lack of defense and well, let’s just say, things aren’t going so great for the team that ranks 31st (out of 31 NHL teams) in average attendance this season.

Or they could be active in trying to scrap together a good team centered around their current stars (Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Joshua Ho-Sang and others).

Potential assets to trade: F Josh Bailey, F Jason Chimera, F Casey Cizikas, D Thomas Hickey, D Dennis Seidenberg

Potential assets to acquire: F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Mike Green (DET), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Zack Smith (OTT), F Tyler Bozak (TOR), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), D Erik Gudbranson (VAN), F David Perron (VGK)

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7. Carolina Hurricanes– 24-21-9 (57 points, 54 GP)

New Carolina Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, might call an audible heading into this year’s trade deadline and decide to spend money on the roster. With almost $15.500 million in cap space, the Hurricanes are in the best possible position to land not just one or two of the big names floating around the rumor mill, but rather three or four quality pieces.

The trouble is, who would they get rid of, since their prospects and youth are worth keeping for further development and overall organizational growth?

Jeff Skinner is someone to build around. So are Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

Lee Stempniak might make his annual trip around the league, but other than that, who are the Hurricanes actually going to offer up from their forwards? If anything, Carolina would move a guy like Noah Hanifin given the contract extensions (and pay raises) that kick in next season for Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin.

Regardless, though they’re not out of contention, the Hurricanes could really use a goaltender to pull them through the stretch. This whole Cam Ward/Scott Darling thing isn’t working out.

Potential assets to trade: G Scott Darling, D Noah Hanifin, F Lee Stempniak, F Derek Ryan, draft picks

Potential assets to acquire: F Evander Kane (BUF), G Robin Lehner (BUF), D Cody Franson (CHI), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Jack Johnson (CBJ),  D Mike Green (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F David Desharnais (NYR), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Rick Nash (NYR), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), F James Neal (VGK), F David Perron (VGK)

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8. New York Rangers– 25-24-5 (55 points, 54 GP)

Look, the New York Rangers are still (technically speaking) in contention– but they absolutely shouldn’t waste another year of Henrik Lundqvist‘s career in the National Hockey League without a Stanley Cup.

The team they have right now? Yeah, they aren’t winning.

They’ve aged out. The core’s been decimated by the Vegas expansion draft and some offseason moves (namely trading Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona after losing Oscar Lindberg to Vegas in June).

Not every player is washed up.

Some will find better homes and rejuvenate their careers before potentially signing with the Rangers in free agency and going back “home” *ahem, Rick Nash*.

Others will simply be a superb rental/long term participant in a franchise, like Michael Grabner.

Basically I’m saying that all the guys New York’s been rumored to trade should get traded and the team can pull off a quick turnaround with their up-and-coming youth, plus whatever they get in return for Nash, Grabner and Co.

And with only about $1.400 million in cap space, the Rangers could have some fun blowing things up (partially).

Build around Mika Zibanejad and friends. Do it, New York. Do it now.

Potential assets to trade: F David Desharnais, F Michael Grabner, D Nick Holden, D Ryan McDonagh, F Rick Nash, G Ondrej Pavelec, D Marc Staal, F Jimmy Vesey, F Mats Zuccarello

Potential assets to acquire: D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Zack Smith (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F James Neal (VGK), F David Perron (VGK)

October 22 – Day 19 – Selections are slim, Vol. III

What did we do to insult the NHL? For the second time in a week, there’s only one game on the schedule. By default, that makes the Canucks’ yearly visit to Detroit at 7 p.m.* (SN1/SN360/TVAS) our DtFR Game of the Day.

*Eastern time.

 

I promise, even though Motown has been featured three times in the past seven days, this is not supposed to be a Red Wings-centric blog or series. I can only feature the games the league schedules.

#ThanksNHL

After a hot start to the season, this has not been a good week for 4-3-1 Detroit. The Wings have amassed a lowly record of 0-2-1 in their past three games, getting outscored 13-8 in the process.

If these three games have been representative of how the Wings are expected to play for the remainder of the season, Michiganders might want to begin tuning in to the other club that calls Little Caesars Arena home (You’re welcome for the shoutout, Pistons. Way to beat my Hornets Wednesday).

As can be surmised from the combined score listed above, it certainly hasn’t been a decline in offensive production that has slowed the Red Wings. Averaging 2.67 goals-per-game over that stretch is, while not among the best in the league by any means, usually good enough to keep games competitive (thanks a bunch for your 3-1-4 efforts this week, F Tomas Tatar!).

Instead, it’s been a breakdown on the defensive end. In the last three contests, Detroit has averaged 4.33 goals against on 31 opposing shots-per-game. Since the shots against average in that time span is actually better than the Wings’ 33.1 rate for the season, it seems it has been the goaltenders that have been struggling this week.

Enter goalies Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Backup Mrazek is the lucky one to take credit for Detroit’s overtime loss to Washington Friday, but a regulation loss was added to both netminders’ records this week.

Though his two starts were against some of the best offenses in the NHL, Howard really dropped the ball during this skid. Not only did he muster a measly .885 save percentage against the Lightning Monday, but he saved only one-of-four shots Wednesday in Toronto before getting pulled 4:14 ahead of the first intermission.

Howard started the season exceptionally, managing a .955 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA for a perfect 3-0-0 record. If any unlikely Motor City Magic is going to happen this season, it will most certainly require both him and Mrazek being at their top of their game every single night they take the ice.

In the midst of a five-game Eastern road trip, the Canucks come to Detroit having won two of their past three games – a stark improvement to their 1-2-1 start.

Whichever Red Wings netminder stars this evening has a fantastic opportunity to rediscover his groove against a Canucks offense that averages a (t)ninth-worst 2.71 goals-per-game.

There’s very little that has gone right for 3-3-1 Vancouver on its offensive end to start this season. Even though C Bo Horvat has fired a team-leading 21 shots, the Canucks average a sixth-worst 29.9 shots-per-game. Tack on the lousy goals-per-game rate previously mentioned and you find an offense that is struggling to fight through even the weakest of defenses.

Trying their hardest to keep the Canucks afloat this season are rookie RW Brock Boeser (2-3-5 totals), D Michael Del Zotto (0-5-5) and W Derek Dorsett (4-1-5).

Boeser in particular has been mightily impressive considering he co-leads the team in points in only games played, but I really want to focus on Dorsett for a moment. Though usually far from the first player you think of as an offensive threat (he averages .25 points-per-game for his entire career), the fourth liner has been one of the Canucks’ best scoring threats this season through seven games.

Is his point production to start his campaign not impressive enough for you? Try his .4 shooting percentage on for size. In fact, that success rate is tied for second-best in the league among players that have fired at least 10 shots this season.

You heard it here first: Dorsett is obviously one of the league’s top snipers.

Consider how big of a joke that last line was, if Detroit’s goaltending can’t handle this offense, they simply don’t deserve to win. Since I think they can – and Tatar and co. can certainly best G Jacob Markstrom –  I’m picking Detroit to earn two points this evening.


Though they trailed 4-2 entering the third period at the TD Garden, the Buffalo Sabres pulled off a 5-4 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Each regulation period had a character of its own, and the first totally belonged to the Bruins. Boston finally broke through with 6:44 remaining in the frame courtesy of a wrist shot from Third Star of the Game RW David Pastrnak (F Tim Schaller and D Charlie McAvoy). 109 seconds later, Second Star LW Brad Marchand buried an unassisted  power play wrister to set the score at 2-0 in favor of the Bruins.

Period 2 was a much more even affair, though it didn’t start that way. Only 37 seconds after the intermission was complete, Marchand (F Anders Bjork and McAvoy) scored another wrister to give Boston a three-goal lead. 7:24 after Marchand’s sixth marker of the season, Buffalo finally got on the scoreboard with a wrister from RW Jason Pominville (First Star F Ryan O’Reilly). A Pastrnak (F Riley Nash and D Torey Krug) wrister negated Pominville’s tally with 8:38 remaining in the period, but C Jack Eichel (D Marco Scandella and W Justin Bailey) pulled the Sabres back within a 4-2 deficit 4:45 later with a solid wrister.

The third period was Buffalo’s chance to shine, starting with LW Benoit Pouliot‘s (F Sam Reinhart and D Jake McCabe) first goal of the season, a snap shot 6:55 into the frame. With the Sabres still trailing with under five minutes remaining in regulation, time was quickly running out. LW Evander Kane (McCabe and Pominville) helped Buffalonians settle back into their seats (well, technically, jump out of them and then settle into them) with a backhanded shot that proved to be the final goal of regulation, struck with 2:08 to spare.

Nearly three minutes of three-on-three action was played, but O’Reilly didn’t really seem all that interested in playing much more. Scoring a backhander with 2:01 remaining before the shootout, the forward earned the Sabres their second win of the season.

Three-on-three play is designed to create some wild action to ensure games don’t end on the shootout, and that’s exactly what happened at the Garden.

Unfortunately for the home fans, almost all that action occurred in Boston’s defensive zone as the Sabres fired six shots on goal in overtime to Boston’s zero.

On what proved to be the Sabres’ final possession, they fired three shots at G Anton Khudobin (though only two were on goal). The first was by D Rasmus Ristolainen from the far face-off circle, but it harmlessly ended up in the near corner. O’Reilly collected the rebound, and passed back to the defenseman who attempted another shot from near the same spot as the first. This one was on frame, but Khudobin was able to reject his offering towards the far corner.

Buffalo once again collected the rebound to maintain possession behind the net. O’Reilly eventually emerged above the goal line with the puck on his stick to begin his attack run on the crease from Khudobin’s right to left. The forward faked a shot to the near post to force the netminder to protect that portion of his net, allowing him slide across the crease just enough to elevate his backhander over Khudobin’s sprawled pads.

Though he suffered a slow start, G Robin Lehner earned the victory after saving 27-of-31 shots  faced (.871 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Khudobin, who saved 37-of-42 (.881).

The third-straight overtime/shootout game in the DtFR Game of the Day series is also the third-straight victory by the road teams. They now trail the 10-5-4 hosts by only four points.

October 12 – Day Nine – The Kevin Peter Hall game

If you have no idea who the title is referring to, maybe today’s selection can help.

Action is slightly delayed this evening, as our first two contests (Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay [SN360/TVAS] and St. Louis at Florida) don’t drop the puck until 7:30 p.m. Dallas pays a visit to Nashville at 8 p.m., followed by Minnesota at Chicago half an hour later. Another pair of contests (Winnipeg at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona) get the green light at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Buffalo at San Jose – getting underway 30 minutes later. All times Eastern.

There’s two games from that selection that have drawn my eye. The Wild-Blackhawks rivalry is always fun to take in, but I’m surprisingly more drawn to a meeting between between two 1-2-0 clubs.

 

Still can’t figure it out? Hall was the person in the Predator suit in the first two Predator movies. He’s the star of Predator!

Sure, I could have gone with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that would have been too easy.

Anyways…

Coming off an offseason of high expectations, both of these teams had a tough opening week to their campaigns. They both lost their opening two games (including an embarrassing 4-0 loss by the Predators to Pittsburgh in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals) before winning their contests on Tuesday.

Starting with visiting Dallas, this was supposed to be an offense that eclipsed that of 2015-’16, yet the Stars have averaged only 2.33 goals-per-game to start the season ([t]third-worst in the league).

Part of the problem has been the goaltending they’ve squared off against. Both Jake Allen (.93 save percentage and 2.58 GAA) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.963 save percentage and 1.32 GAA) have yet to lose a game in three starts and – especially Fleury – have been among the league’s best.

Even though the super line of Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov didn’t find the back of the net, Dallas proved what it is truly capable of Tuesday against G Petr Mrazek. With the exception of the top power play unit scoring late in the first period, the middle two lines began flexing their muscles by scoring the remaining three goals (shh, no one needs to know that C Martin Hanzal‘s first goal of the year was an empty netter).

While the offense assumes its form, it’s been the superb play of G Ben Bishop that has been keeping the Stars competitive in all their games. So far this season he’s posted a .955 save percentage and 1.15 GAA, including what could have been a shutout if he hadn’t been forced from the Vegas game on opening night.

Of the numerous signings made across the league, few improved a team as immensely as this one did for Dallas. Add in the fact that the Stars also added D Marc Methot to a formerly flimsy defensive corps and you find a Dallas team ready to shoot for the stars (that was so lame).

As for the Predators, they’re just trying to live up to qualifying for last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. No big deal, right?

That postseason effort was largely dependent on a defensive corps that also had a scoring touch as golden as their sweaters, and maybe it’s the absence of that flair that has held Nashville back so far this young season. Beyond D P.K. Subban and his four assists, only two other blue liners have contributed on offense. Even more noticeable is that none of those defensive points are goals.

It would seem D Ryan Ellis‘ absence is certainly being felt, as he posted 16-22-38 totals last season for .54 points-per-game. He would have notched at least one point by now.

And as dependable as Bishop has been for the Stars, G Pekka Rinne has been below-average to star the season. He’s managed only an .869 save percentage for an atrocious 4.16 GAA – and he didn’t even play in the four-goal loss to Pittsburgh.

With such an offensively-minded D-corps, elite play from Rinne is an absolute necessity. To put it bluntly, forcing the defense to actually focus on playing defense (that’s not a knock on this group, but we all know they’re almost always planning their next attack) takes such a major weapon away from this Nashville team. Head Coach Peter Laviolette cannot afford for this solid team to be in the wrong year of Rinne’s “good year, bad year” routine.

If anything is starting to go right for the Predators, it’s their power play. The man-advantage, specifically the top unit, played an integral role in the Preds’ comeback win Tuesday from a 4-3 deficit in the third period. Nashville has converted 31.3 percent of its man-advantages, which ties with the Rangers for the second-best effort in the NHL.

Though it was great to get that win over Philadelphia, I still don’t think all the Preds are mentally back from summer vacation. Having said that, I’m leaning towards Dallas pulling off the victory tonight, whether the game is over after 60 minutes or requires a shootout.


The machine that is the Pittsburgh Penguins seems to have rediscovered its groove, as they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the Verizon Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins employed a goal-per-period strategy last night that the Caps nearly matched, failing to score in the first period. Because of that, does that make D Kris Letang‘s (W Bryan Rust and First Star of the Game RW Patric Hornqvist) first goal of the season, a power play wrist shot 5:22 into the game, the game-winner?

Unfortunately for Letang, we all know the answer to that question is technically ‘no.’ Sorry, buddy.

Pittsburgh registered its second power play goal of the night 8:20 into the second period, courtesy of Hornqvist (W Tom Kuhnhackl and C Sidney Crosby), another first-time goalscorer for the 2017-’18 season. The Penguins almost took a two-goal advantage into the second intermission, but Second Star D Christian Djoos (C Lars Eller and W Brett Connolly) sneaked a slap shot past G Matthew Murray with 53 seconds remaining in the frame to pull Washington back within a goal. Just like the goalscorers before him, Djoos’ marker was his first of the season, but this one was extra special: tonight was also his NHL debut.

Apparently Head Coach Mike Sullivan was none too pleased about Djoos’ late marker, as Third Star W Conor Sheary (D Justin Schultz and D Olli Maatta) provided what proved to be the true game-winner 38 seconds into the third period.

The play truly started with five seconds remaining in the second period when RW Alex Chiasson earned himself a seat in the penalty box for getting caught holding D Brian Dumoulin. As far as action on the ice is concerned, the scoring play began with Maatta at the blue line. Seeing Schultz undefended – due to the Capitals being shorthanded – in the face-off circle to G Braden Holtby‘s right, he passed to his fellow defenseman who quickly centered a pass to Sheary waiting in Holtby’s crease. Though the 25-year-old began falling while performing his tip-in, the redirection was just enough to beat Holtby to the post.

W Alex Ovechkin (Djoos and C Nicklas Backstrom) did pull Washington back within a goal with 7:09 remaining in regulation, but neither he, F T.J. Oshie nor any of the other Capitals could complete the comeback in the remaining time.

Murray earned the victory after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (.909), leaving the loss to Holby, who saved 33-of-36 (.917).

Pittsburgh’s road victory snaps what was a four-game winning streak for the 5-3-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That being said, hosts still have a two-point advantage over roadies in the competition.

March 27 – Day 159 – Red hot

It happened again. The very day we detest the most: Monday.

Fortunately, the NHL is a true pal and hooked us up with a half-dozen hockey games to make it better. The action starts with three contests (Detroit at Carolina, Florida at Buffalo and Nashville at the New York Islanders [SN]) at 7 p.m., followed by Chicago at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Arizona at St. Louis, trailed an hour later by Colorado at Calgary, tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.

A game of note this evening is the Red Wings‘ first of two straight visits to PNC Arena, as this is the game that had to be postponed in mid-December due to an issue with the arena’s surface cooling equipment.

Since we haven’t featured the Hurricanes all season and they’re quietly in contention for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, let’s make a trip to Raleigh!

 

You may not believe me, but it’s true: 33-27-13 Carolina is still in the playoff conversation with nine games left in their regular season. It may not look like it at quick glance since the Hurricanes have only 79 points, but that’s due in part to the reason they are active tonight.

Eleventh-place Carolina has two games-in-hand on 39-30-6 Boston (84 points) because of its rescheduled contest against Detroit. Should the Canes have played that game and lost, they’d be in much worse shape. Instead, they’ll trail the Bruins by only a point if they win both their games-in-hand and could be in prime position to end their seven-season playoff drought.

Of course, that ignores what the ninth and 10th place Islanders and Lightning do, but I don’t see them featured today!

Much of the reason the Canes are in the position they’re in right now is due to their three-game winning streak and their 7-0-3 record in their last 10 games. Carolina has been an offensive juggernaut since March 9, as their 37 goals for is the highest total in the league since then.

Though Jeff Skinner and his 54 points have been the Hurricanes‘ offensive leader for the entirety of the season, he’s been joined of late by rookie Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm, who both have 11 points during this recent streak.

Don’t read too much into that last graf though. Skinner is still the primary threat for 16-20-8 Petr Mrazek to focus on tonight. 10 of the left wing’s dozen points since March 9 have been goals, doubling Aho’s five and tying Nikita Kucherov for most in the league over that stretch.

To focus on Aho for a minute, the Fin has made a living on the power play with his five man-advantage points during this run – a top-five effort in that time-frame. That success has led the Canes to a 28% success rate with the extra man since earlier this month, the eighth-best mark in the NHL in that time and second-best in a dominant Metropolitan Division that features some elite offenses.

This offensive prowess is a change from what has been Carolina‘s priority all season: defense. In fact, the Canes have allowed only 203 goals against this year, which ties for the 16th-best mark in the NHL.

Nothing tells this story better than Carolina‘s 85.3% season penalty kill rate, the second-best mark in the league. The PK has been a major point of focus for second-year defenseman Jaccob Slavin. The Hurricanes selected him from Colorado College in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and all he’s done is lead the team with 37 shorthanded shot blocks this year. Not bad, kid (he’s almost exactly three months younger than me, I get to call him kid).

In fact, Slavin and Co. has been so good, 24-20-11 Cam Ward has faced only 155 shots against while his club is shorthanded, the lowest total among the 30 netminders with at least 39 appearances.

Other than Joe Louis Arena’s farewell season, the biggest story about the 30-32-12 Red Wings this season has been the prediction-turned-reality that they’ll miss the postseason for the first time in 25 years.

But that doesn’t mean the Wings are entirely incapable of good hockey. Though not as impressive as the Canes‘, Detroit is also riding a three-game streak of earning at least a point, and has a 4-1-1 record since March 16.

All but one of those six contests have been one-goal affairs, and it’s been a resurgent 9-8-1 Jimmy Howard, who just celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday, that has led the charge. Sidelined for much of the season with a knee injury, he’s earned a .953 save percentage and 1.29 GAA since mid-March, the sixth and seventh-best marks in the league, respectively, during that stretch.

Howard has been especially exceptional when faced with an opposing power play. Though he’s faced 12 man-advantages since March 16, he has yet to allow a power play goal after saving all 12 shots he’s faced while his club is shorthanded.

As of publication of this article, it remains to be seen if Jeff Blashill will continue alternating goaltenders this evening. It’d be an odd time to stop the recent practice since the Wings played – and won – an overtime game yesterday before traveling from Michigan to North Carolina. I’d bank on seeing Mrazek in net this evening.

Offensively, nothing paints a picture like a 14% season success rate on the power play. It’s the second-worst rate in the NHL that still features Thomas Vanek – a current member of the Florida Panthers – as the third-best point-earner. Frans Nielsen and Henrik Zetterberg have been able to create symmetry at times this year, but now is not one of those moments. They’ve earned a combined three power play points since March 16. Three.

Thanks to the postponement of what became today’s game, these clubs have only met once this season. In what was the Canes‘ final visit to The Joe, Dylan Larkin scored two of Detroit‘s goals to lead the Wings to a 4-2 victory on October 25.

These teams will complete their three-game season series tomorrow night on the same surface, which adds even a bit more intrigue to tonight’s game.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Carolina‘s Skinner (30 goals for 54 points [both lead the team]) and Slavin (149 blocks for +19 [both lead the team]) & Detroit‘s Zetterberg (46 assists [eighth-most in the league]).

There’s not few, if any, hotter than the Hurricanes right now, and they’re doing it at the right time of the year. Especially given the fact that the Wings were involved in an overtime game yesterday, I like Carolina to continue its playoff push with a win today.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bryan Campbell (1944-) – Though this center spent most of his career in the WHA, he began his professional hockey career in the NHL. He played five seasons in the league, and spent most of that time in Chicago. He scored 106 points over 260 games, including a decent 1970-’71 season with 17 goals for 54 points.
  • Dustin Byfuglien (1985-) – It’s hard to believe, but this season marks this defenseman’s seventh season with the Thrashers/Jets organization. It seems just yesterday he was hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2010 Blackhawks.

Last night’s 6-3 DtFR Game of the Day Duck victory over the Rangers was a big one, as they converted a game-in-hand on their fellow competitors for the Pacific Division title for two points to create a two-point lead with seven games remaining to be played.

The busiest period was the first, as it featured four goals. The icebreaker belonged to Rick Nash (Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad) and New York on a wrist shot 5:54 after the initial puck drop. That lead didn’t last too long though, as Third Star of the Game Patrick Eaves (Second Star Cam Fowler and First Star Ryan Getzlaf) pulled Anaheim even 3:01 later on a wrister. Once again the Blueshirts took a lead, this time off a Derek Stepan (Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello) slap shot, but the Ducks had another answer. Ryan Kesler (Getzlaf and Fowler) scored a power play tip-in with two minutes remaining in the frame to tie the game at two-all, which held into the first intermission.

At the 9:39 mark of the second period, Anaheim finally claimed its first lead of the game when Josh Manson (Getzlaf) scored a wrister. Making that goal even more impressive, the Ducks were shorthanded. That didn’t seem to phase New York though, as Brady Skjei (Jimmy Vesey and Zibanejad) buried only his fifth goal of the season 3:31 later to pull the Rangers even at three-all. That score held into the second intermission.

Whatever Randy Carlyle said in the dressing room, it worked because Anaheim buried three tallies and held the Rangers scoreless for the final 20 minutes. Andrew Cogliano (Kesler) takes credit for the game-winner 2:19 after the beginning of the final frame, followed only 2:04 later by an insurance tally from Eaves (Rickard Rakell and Getzlaf). To ensure the Rangers could not stage a late comeback, Nick Ritchie (Corey Perry) scored a wrister on an empty net with 98 ticks remaining on the clock to clinch the win.

Jonathan Bernier earned the victory after saving 25-of-28 shots faced (89.3%), leaving the loss to Henrik Lundqvist, who saved 28-of-33 (84.8%).

Thanks to the Ducks defending home ice, hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series now trial the 81-57-23 road teams by only a lone point.

April 7 – Day 175 – Effectively a play-in

With two three-goal periods by the Oilers, Rexall Place went out a winner over the rival Canucks by a score of 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Edmonton saved their first offensive outburst for the second period, as Nail Yakupov got things started at the 28:27 mark of the game with his eighth tally of the season, assisted by Mark Fayne.  Patrick Maroon scored the second 4:49 later, his 10th tally of the season.  The third and final goal of the second period, aka the game winner,  was struck with 2:34 remaining courtesy of a Connor McDavid wrister, assisted by Jordan Eberle (his 21st helper of the season) and Taylor Hall, giving the Oil a three goal lead.

Vancouver finally got on the board at the 5:21 mark of the final period on a Matt Bartkowski snap shot, assisted by Alex Biega and Jared McCann (his ninth helper of the season), but the Oilers returned the differential to three 3:47 later with Maroon’s second of the night, assisted by Eberle and McDavid (his 31st helper of the season).  18 seconds later, Hall scored on a backhander for his 26th tally of the season, assisted by Adam Pardy and Iiro Pakarinen.  With 7:51 remaining in the game, the Canucks scored their second goal on a Bo Horvat snapper (his 15th tally of the season), assisted by Emerson Etem and Derek Dorsett.  The final goal of the game belongs to Leon Draisaitl, whose wrister was assisted by Hall (his 38th helper of the season) and McDavid.

Cam Talbot earns the win after saving 25 of 27 shots faced (92.6%), while Jacob Markstrom takes the loss, saving 32 of 38 (84.2%).

Edmonton‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day record at 81-45-19, favoring the home sides by 40 points over the roadies.

I hope you’re ready for another busy hockey night, because you’re in store for one!  Six pucks drop at 7 p.m. eastern (Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS], Tampa Bay at New Jersey, the New York Islanders at the New York Rangers, Toronto at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh at Washington [SN360] and Montréal at Carolina [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Florida at Ottawa (RDS2).  Arizona at Nashville gets underway at 8 p.m. eastern, with two games trailing 30 minutes later (St. Louis at Chicago and Colorado at Dallas).  Vancouver at Calgary is the only game to start at 9 p.m. eastern, as the co-nightcaps get started an hour and a half later (Anaheim at Los Angeles [SN/SN360] and Winnipeg at San Jose).

There’s a lot of divisional rivalries being  played this evening (Detroit at Boston, Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, Florida at Ottawa, St. Louis at Chicago, Colorado at Dallas, Vancouver at Calgary and Anaheim at Los Angeles), and four games between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, St. Louis at Chicago and Anaheim at Los Angeles).  The VancouverCalgary game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Quarterfinals.

There’s a ton of great games being played this evening, which makes my choice difficult.  Boston has the opportunity to qualify, which in turn makes the TorontoPhiladelphia game important (mark it down though, when was the last time Bruins fans hoped for a Maple Leafs win?).  The Islanders can reclaim a division qualifying spot.  St. Louis can move into first place in the Western Conference (again, that also makes the ColoradoDallas game important).  We’ve got a playoff rematch. And, oh yeah, we need to break a tie for the lead in the Pacific Division.

Since the biggest impact on the playoffs is a team not qualifying moving into the bracket, I suppose we’ll head to New England.

UnknownUnknownThis will be Detroit‘s 12th time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-4-1 record.  The last time they were featured was March 22, a 6-2 beat down at the hands of the Lightning.  Boston has been featured 21 times before tonight, and own a 8-11-2 record in such games.  They were just featured Tuesday in their 2-1 home shootout loss to the Hurricanes.

The 41-28-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the 14th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 103 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2344 shots to reach 27-16-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 216 goals against, the 14th most in the NHL.  They’ve been about that successful on the penalty kill too, neutralizing 81.23% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against, the 14th best rate in the league.

Led by Dylan Larkin’s 213 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2358 times, with 8.6% finding the back of the net for 204 goals (led by Larkin’s 23 tallies), the eighth fewest in the league.  In comparison, the power play has done well this season, successful on 19.29% of attempts, good for 49 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s eight extra man tallies), the 12th best rate in the league.

Detroit enters tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being last night’s three goal shutout victory over the visiting Flyers.  With a win tonight, the Wings clinch their spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, but a loss makes their final game on Saturday in Madison Square Garden a must win, especially since they play at the same time as the Bruins.

The 41-30-9 Boston Bruins currently occupy fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff picture.  To get there, they’ve played the fifth best offense in the league, but it’s been paired with the 12th worst defense.  A more statistical breakdown of their game can be found within Tuesday’s post.

Boston enters tonight’s game on a two game losing skid, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Canes.  The Bruins certainly keeps their playoff hopes alive with a win this evening, but they’ll need Toronto to beat Philadelphia if they want to actually break into qualifying position before the night is through.

This is the final meeting of the regular season between these two squads, and Boston leads the season series 2-1-0.  That being said, it was the last meeting on Valentine’s Day that Detroit earned their lone win over the Bruins, a 6-5 home victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (36 goals [tied for fifth most in the league]) and Detroit‘s Larkin (23 goals, including 19 at even-strength and five game-winners, on 213 shots, and +13 [all lead the team]).

I think Boston should be able to win this game.  Their defense shouldn’t be pushed too much, and the offense is more than capable of scoring at a moment’s notice.

May 22 – Day 159 – Final round: Wings v. Bolts

With three unanswered goals in the second period, the Nashville Predators earned their first and only win over the Los Angeles Kings this season in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Third Star of the Game James Neal waited until 27:37 had ticked off the clock before scoring his wrister (his 28th tally of the season), assisted by Second Star Ryan Johansen.  5:40 later, First Star Mike Fisher took advantage of a too many men penalty to double the Preds‘ lead, assisted by Neal and Johansen (his 38th helper of the season).  To close the period’s scoring, Filip Forsberg connected on a backhander to give Nashville their third and eventual game-winning goal, assisted by Craig Smith and Roman Josi (his 41st helper of the season).

The Kings must have gotten a stern talking to from Darryl Sutter during the intermission, as they scored only 32 seconds after resuming play on a Drew Doughty wrister (his 14th tally of the season), assisted by Rob Scuderi and Anze Kopitar.  7:28 later, they pulled within a goal with a tally from Alec Martinez, assisted by Tanner Pearson and Kopitar (his 43rd helper of the season).  Nashville got back to scoring at the 11:45 mark of the third period when Johansen connected on a tip-in, assisted by Shea Weber (his 29th helper of the season) and Calle Jarnkrok.  The Predators‘ final goal was courtesy of Josi on an empty net with only 29 seconds remaining in the game, setting the score at the 5-2 final.

Pekka Rinne earns the victory after saving 28 of the 30 shots he faced (93.3%), while Jonathan Quick takes the loss, saving 24 of 27 (88.9%).  He was replaced after the second intermission by Jhonas Enroth, who saved only one of the two shots he faced (50%).

After Nashville‘s win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 71-41-17, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

If you like days with lots of games, this is the Tuesday for you.  10 games will be played tonight, starting with the first two at 7 p.m. eastern (Buffalo at Carolina [BELL TV] and Philadelphia at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (Anaheim at Montréal [RDS], Washington at Ottawa [RDS2] and Detroit at Tampa Bay [TVAS]).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Vancouver at Winnipeg contest, which is trailed 30 minutes later by two more (Los Angeles at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Dallas at Chicago).  Edmonton visits Arizona at 10 p.m. eastern, and this evening’s nightcap, St. Louis at San Jose, drops the puck half an hour later.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Philadelphia at Columbus, Detroit at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Chicago and Edmonton at Arizona) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Chicago and St. Louis at San Jose).

In addition for the reasons listed above, the DetroitTampa Bay game is also a rematch of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal from a season ago, so we’ll head down to Amalie Arena.

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Tonight’s game will be Detroit‘s 11th in our Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-3-1 record.  Their most recent showing in such a game was last Tuesday, when they fell in Philadelphia 4-3.  Tampa Bay has been featured 14 times before this game, and own a 9-3-2 record in the series.  We last focused on them March 8, when they fell 1-0 in overtime to the Bruins on home ice.

The 36-25-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th best defense, paired with the 10th worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Wings‘ game can be found within last Tuesday’s article.

Detroit is currently riding a two game winning streak, with their most recent being Saturday’s 5-3 victory at Florida.  While a win tonight would pull the Red Wings into a tie with the Islanders for the first wildcard (a tie they lose on games played), it could, more importantly, expand the gap between themselves and the pressing Flyers to three points, but the Wings will need some help from Columbus this evening for that to happen.

The 41-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  Defense has been the name of the game in Tampa, as they’ve given up the fourth fewest goals, and have scored the 13th most to boot.

Led by Victor Hedman’s 126 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 2071 shots to reach 30-19-4 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 171 goals against, the fourth fewest in the league.  The Bolts‘ penalty kill has been especially strong, neutralizing 84.09% of their infractions for only 35 power play goals against, the fifth best rate in the NHL.  Further improving on that tough defense, the Tampa Bay has also scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

The offense has been only a step behind.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ team-leading 197 shots, the Lightning have fired the puck only 2091 times, but 9.2% have found the back of the net for 196 goals (led by Stamkos’ 33 tallies), 13th most in the league.  The biggest hole in Tampa‘s game is most certainly their power play, as their 16.32% success rate, good for only 39 extra man goals (led by Stamkos’ 13 power play tallies), ranks fifth worst in the NHL.

Tampa Bay‘s most recent game was Saturday, a 2-0 win in Arizona.  With a win tonight, the Bolts would reclaim the Atlantic Division lead (even if only by a games played tiebreaker), but a loss leaves the door open for the Bruins to take over second place should they beat the Rangers in tomorrow’s game.

Detroit leads the season series 2-1-0 going into the final game, but it was Tampa Bay who earned the 3-1 win last time these squads met, which took place February 3 on the very surface they’ll meet on this evening.  Of course, this season’s regular season series carries extra weight, as these squads met in the first round of last season’s playoffs.  It was a tightly contested series, as the Bolts needed the full seven games to finally knock off the Wings.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Petr Mrazek (.924 save percentage [tied for sixth best in the league] and 2.21 GAA [seventh best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.02 GAA [leads the league], .928 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 30 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Stamkos (33 goals [tied for seventh most in the league]).

Both of these teams are playing on even rest, with the minor exception that the Lightning traveled home over the weekend versus Detroit just making the drive across the Sunshine State. Frankly, Tampa Bay is the better team in this game, both offensively and defensively, and I expect them to play as such.

March 15 – Day 152 – Qualification battle

The Panthers entered the third period with a two goal shutout lead, but the Islanders scored three unanswered goals to earn the win in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The lone goal in the first period found the back of the net with 4:49 remaining in the frame, courtesy of a Third Star of the Game Aleksander Barkov wrister (his 22nd tally of the season), assisted by Alex Petrovic and Jonathan Huberdeau.

8:03 into the second, Florida struck again to double their lead.  This tally was a Nick Bjugstad wrsiter, assisted by Barkov and Huberdeau (his 34th helper of the season).  The Panthers held their 2-0 lead until 7:10 remained in regulation.

Second Star Kyle Okposo’s wrister finally got New York on the board, assisted by Frans Nielsen (his 26th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.  1:21 later, Josh Bailey leveled the contest with a wrister, assisted by John Tavares (his 29th helper of the season) and Casey Cizikas.  The Isles‘ game winner came courtesy of an unassisted First Star Cal Clutterbuck backhander, his 13th tally of the season.

Thomas Greiss earns the win after saving 23 of 25 shots faced (92%), while Roberto Luongo takes the loss, saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

The first home win since Friday sets the DtFR Game of the Day series record at 67-39-16, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the roadies.

It’s an exciting Tuesday of games this evening!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern as usual with two games (the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Washington), with four games following half an hour later (Detroit at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Tampa Bay at Toronto, Florida at Montréal and Minnesota at Ottawa).  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the puck drop of the Los Angeles at Dallas contest, and this evening’s nightcap, Boston at San Jose, gets going at 10 p.m. eastern on NBCSN.

Half of tonight’s (New York at Pittsburgh, Carolina at Washington, Tampa Bay at Toronto and Florida at Montréal) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles at Dallas and Boston at San Jose).

While that list is usually helpful, the game I’m most interested in is Detroit at Philadelphia, as both of these squads are competing for the second wildcard.

UnknownPhiladelphia Flyers LogoTonight’s game will be Detroit‘s 10th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-2-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was the last day of February, a 3-2 overtime victory in Dallas.  Philadelphia has been featured three times before tonight’s game, and own a 2-1-0 record in such games, with their most recent being their 3-1 loss in Carolina on February 23.

The 34-24-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 92 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2037 shots to reach  26-14-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 182 goals against, the 15th most in the league.  The defense slightly improves when down a man, as their 80.7% kill rate, which has allowed 44 power play goals so far this season, ranks only 11th worst in the NHL.

The offense has been even worse.  Led by Dylan Larkin’s 184 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2055 times, but only 8.3% have found the back of the net for 173 goals (led by Larkin’s 20 tallies), the eighth fewest in the NHL.  The power play hasn’t done them any help either, as the 16.96% success rate, good for 38 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s seven extra man tallies), ranks seventh worst in the league.

Detroit‘s last game was Sunday night, a one goal shutout loss at home to the Maple Leafs.  A win tonight has the potential to propel the Wings back into the first wildcard position should Pittsburgh fall to the Islanders but a loss allows Philadelphia to pull within at least a point of qualifying for the playoffs in Detroit‘s place.

The 32-23-12 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff cut.  They play the 14th best defense, but it is paired with the ninth worst offense.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team leading 136 blocks, the Flyers have allowed 2067 shots to reach 16-15-8 Steve Mason and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 180 goals against, the 14th fewest in the NHL.  Philadelphia‘s penalty kill has been even worse than the Wings‘, neutralizing only 79.65% of their penalties for 46 power play goals against, the ninth worst rate in the league.

Led by Claude Giroux’ 190 shots, Philly has fired the puck a solid 2040 times, but only 8.4% have found the back of the net for 174 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 24 tallies), the ninth fewest in the league.  In comparison to the overall offense, the Flyers‘ power play has been decent, successful on 18.94% of attempts, good for 43 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 11 extra man tallies), the 13th best success rate in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last showing was their 5-4 shootout loss in Florida on Saturday.  With a win tonight, they pull within at least a point of this evening’s opposition for the second wildcard position.

This is only the second meeting between these two squads this season, with the first game on January 17 ending 2-1 in favor of Philadelphia after a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Mrazek (2.17 GAA [tied for fifth best in the league] and .925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) should he play.

The Flyers should be able to win this evening’s game, as both teams field terrible offenses, but Detroit‘s defense is much more prone to allowing scores.  The Broad Street Bullies are still alive for the playoffs!

February 29 – Day 137 – Detroit returns the favor to Dallas

The Tampa Bay Lightning took sole ownership of second place in the Atlantic Division by winning 4-1 in Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Bruins‘ lone goal was struck only 6:01 into the game, courtesy of  a Kevan Miller wrister, assisted by Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro.  Tampa leveled the game 5:18 later with a power play wrister from Alex Killorn, who was assisted by Anton Stralman (his 20th helper of the season) and First Star of the Game Ryan Callahan.  The Bolts took a lead they would not yield with their game-winning goal at the 14:39 mark, courtesy of Callahan, who was assisted by Killorn’s 21st helper of the season.

It was another two-goal period for the Bolts in the second, with their first coming at the 8:18 mark.  It was Callahan’s second of the evening, assisted by Second Star Steven Stamkos (his 23rd helper of the season) and Stralman.  1:46 later, Stamkos’ wrister (his 28th tally of the season) found the back to set the score at the 4-1 final.

Third Star Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 32 of 33 shots (97%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Tampa Bay’s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 61-34-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Monday night, with half of them getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Columbus at the New York Rangers [NHLN], Calgary at Philadelphia and Arizona at Pittsburgh), with Tampa Bay at Toronto dropping the puck half an hour later.  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Detroit at Dallas, and Montréal at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at New York and Tampa Bay at Toronto), and Detroit at Dallas is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although it is not the nationally televised game this evening, the most exciting is definitely the DetroitDallas game.

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Both sides have been featured eight times in the Game of the Day series before this evening’s game, but it is Dallas with the better record in such games (5-0-3 and 5-2-1, respectively).  Detroit was most recently featured in their 1-0 overtime loss in Madison Square Garden on February 21, while Dallas last saw action in the series on February 16 in their 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis.

The 31-20-11 Detroit Red Wings are, to put it plainly, an intriguing team, as they currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference (good enough for the first wildcard spot), but don’t play either end of the ice exceptionally well.

For starters, even with Danny DeKeyser’s 83 blocks leading the squad to allowing 1829 shots (exactly the league average) to reach 24-11-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92%, they’ve allowed 161 goals, only the 14th-fewest in the league.  The penalty kill is barely better, as their 81.86% kill rate ranks 13th-best, allowing 37 extra-man tallies.

The offense hasn’t done them any favors.  Rookie Dylan Larkin has a team-leading 164 shots to his credit and helped lead the squad to 1804 attempts, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 158 scores (led by Larkin’s 19), 10th-fewest in the league.  The offense gets even worse on the power play, as they are successful on only 17.17% of attempts for 34 extra-man goals, sixth-worst in the league.

All of that being said, the Wings are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent occurring Saturday in Denver, a 5-3 victory.  Should Detroit pull off a win tonight, they would advance past Boston for third in the division and trail second place Tampa Bay by only a point.

The 38-19-6 Dallas Stars are currently in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the best offense in the NHL, but they’ve been held back by also fielding the eighth-worst defense.

Led by Tyler Seguin’s 241 shots, the Stars have fired the puck 2033 times, of which an incredible 9.9% have found the back of the net for 204 goals, most in the NHL.  The offense has actually slowed down when on the power play, as Dallas‘ 22.11% success rate for 44 extra-man tallies (led by Jamie Benn’s 14) is only fourth-best in the league.

The major pitfall for the Stars this season has been in the defensive zone, specifically the goalie crease.  Led by Johnny Oduya’s team-leading 132 blocks, Dallas has allowed 1841 shots to reach 22-11-5 Antti Niemi and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.5% for 181 goals against, eighth-most in the league.  The penalty kill has been even worse, as the Stars kill only 79.26% of opposing power plays for 39 goals against, seventh-worst in the league.  However, those numbers are slightly improved by the eight short-handed goals (led by Cody Eakin’s three) to their credit.

Dallas is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being their 3-2 loss on Saturday to the Rangers.  Should the Stars defend home ice this evening, they would reclaim the top spot in both the division and conference by a point over the Blackhawks.

The Red Wings and Stars have already played once this season, but it was way back on November 8.  Dallas won that game 4-1 in Detroit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (70 points [second-most in the league], 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league] and 38 assists [10th-most in the league]), John Klingberg (42 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Seguin (68 points [third-most in the league] and 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+20 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.1 GAA [tied for second-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Although Mrazek has been impressive in net at times this season, it’s not often he’s seen an offense as proficient as the one in Dallas.  The Stars should easily hold home ice.