Tag Archives: Mrazek

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.

February 21 – Day 129 – Original Six in the Garden

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their DtFR Game of the Day losing streak to six straight, falling to Tampa Bay 4-2 yesterday.

It was all Tampa Bay in the first period, as they scored two unanswered goals.  The first of those tallies was an Anton Stralman wrister at the 9:08 mark, assisted by Vladislav Namestnikov (his 17th helper of the season) and Jonathan Marchessault.  2:12 later, Steven Stamkos got involved with his 24th goal of the season, a backhander assisted by Alex Kilorn and Matthew Carle.

The Bolts began the second right where they left the first, with Carle’s unassisted first goal of the season at the 3:14 mark.  The Penguins finally got on the board 2:21 later, when Tom Kuhnhackl scored his first goal of the season, a short-hander no less.  Tampa set the score at 4-1 with a tip-in from Tyler Johnson, assisted by Ondrej Palat (his 11th helper of the season) and Marchessault.  With 3:59 remaining in the second, Pittsburgh got their second off a Scott Wilson wrister, assisted by Bryan Rust and Kris Letang (his 33rd helper of the season).  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission and through the final period.

Ben Bishop earns the victory after saving 37 of 39 shots (94.9%), while Jeff Zatkoff takes the loss after saving 16 of 20 (80%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 57-30-12, favoring the home squad by 32 points over the roadies.

Twelve teams are in action today, and one of them is being played outside for everyone who thinks that’s fun.  The day’s action gets started at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Pittsburgh visits Buffalo, followed three hours later by Chicago at Minnesota, the first of two games in the Stadium Series this year.  The usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features three puck drops (Calgary at Anaheim, Detroit at the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at Carolina).  The prestigious title of nightcap is bestowed to the Colorado at Vancouver game, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Chicago at Minnesota and Calgary at Anaheim are the only two divisional rivalries being played today, and only the DetroitNew York game is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  The ChicagoMinnesota and CalgaryAnaheim games are also worth watching for being rematches of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

Although the NHL may not like it for all the effort they put into their outdoor games, it is the DetroitNew York game that attracts my attention best.

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Tonight’s game will be Detroit‘s eighth in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-2-0 record.  Their most recent was Valentine’s Day, when they beat the Bruins 6-5.  New York will be playing in their 16th game in the series, where they own a 8-5-2 record.  They’ve been featured more recently, falling 5-3 on home ice to the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

The 29-20-10 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the first wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played a slightly above-average defense, paired with a slightly below-average offense.

Thanks in part to Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 79 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed only 1716 shots to reach 22-11-5 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 153 goals against, the 14th-fewest in the league.  Just like the entire defensive unit, the penalty kill has also hung around average for much of this season.  Currently, the Wings rank 15th-best, killing 80.73% for 34 extra-man goals against.

Rookie sensation Dylan Larkin has already become an integral part of Detroit‘s offense, as his 157 shots have helped lead the squad to 1695 shots, of which 8.7% have found the back of the net for 149 goals (led by Larkin’s 19 tallies), 13th-fewest in the league.  Just like the penalty kill, this special team ranks just behind the overall offense.  The Wings‘ 18.28% success rate ranks 12th-worst, and has provided 34 goals.

Detroit enters tonight game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-2 shootout loss in Ottawa last night.  Should the Wings win, they have the potential to move back into third place in the Atlantic Division, but they will also need Tampa Bay to lose to Carolina.  Should they lose, they do run the risk of falling into the second wildcard position should Pittsburgh beat Buffalo.

The 33-19-6 New York Rangers currently rank second-best in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best offense in the NHL, which is backed by the ever-improving defense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blueshirts‘ style can be found within Wednesday’s article.

New York‘s most recent game was a 4-2 victory in Toronto on Thursday.  Should the Rangers win, they improve their lead over their Brooklyn rivals to five points.

Today’s game is the first in this season’s series.  Last season, Detroit won the series 2-0-1, with the overtime loss being the only game played in Madison Square Garden.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+21 [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.11 GAA [fourth-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (28 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .922 save percentage [10th-best in the league]).

I don’t expect this to be much of a game.  New York is a tough opponent, especially at home, and Detroit has not played well this week.  I expect the Blueshirts to earn two points.

February 8 – Day 116 – Wait, I thought Detroit was slated to play Tampa Bay…

Both Ben Scrivens and Cam Ward played exceptional games, but it was the Montréal Canadiens that took home the bonus point after an extended shootout.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored the first goal of the game rather quickly, after only 2:27 of play.  After an initial shot from Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner tipped in Carolina’s only puck to tickle the twine.  The 1-0 lead held to the intermission.

Montréal leveled the score at the 8:11 mark of the second when Max Pacioretty converted a wrister after assists from Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban (his 37th helper of the season).

The one-all tie held through the third period, as well as the three-on-three overtime.  It took five rounds of the shootout, and only one goal was scored courtesy of Sven Andrighetto, effectively a game-winner.

Scrivens earns the win by saving 34 of 35 (97.1%), while Ward loses, saving 33 of 34 (97.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 52-24-10, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.

Today’s schedule is only one more game than yesterday’s, and they are all nice and early in the evening!  Two games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at the New York Rangers [NHLN] and Anaheim at Pittsburgh) with the other two following only 30 minutes later (Tampa Bay at Ottawa and Florida at Detroit).

Most of tonight’s games are between division rivals (New Jersey at New York, Tampa Bay at Ottawa and Florida at Detroit), and another set of two are between teams both qualifying for the playoffs (Anaheim at Pittsburgh and Florida at Detroit).

Although Erik Condra is making his first return to the Canadian Tire Centre, where he spent the first five seasons of his career, the game I’m most interested in involves the other team from the Sunshine State.

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Both teams have played five games before tonight in the Game of the Day series, but it is the Panthers with the better record in such games (4-1-0 and 3-2-0, respectively).  Florida‘s most recent game in the series was a 5-2 victory over the Lightning on January 23, while Detroit played more recently in Tampa Bay, falling 3-1 on Wednesday.

The 31-15-6 Florida Panthers currently lead the Atlantic Division and trail only the Washington Capitals for the Eastern Conference lead.  They play the second best defense in the league, paired with the ninth-best offense.

With Willie Mitchell’s team-leading 70 blocks, Florida has allowed 1553 shots (10 more than the league average) to reach 23-13-5 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they collectively saved a solid 93% for only 115 goals against, second-fewest in the league.  Part of that defensive success has been the Panthers‘ penalty kill, which ranks seventh-best in the league.  They’ve killed 83.33% of opposing attempts, allowing only 29 extra-man tallies against.

As good as the defense has been, the offense isn’t too far behind.  Led by Jonathan Huberdeau’s 121 attempts, Florida has fired only 1454 shots so far this season, but connected on a whopping 9.8% for 143 goals (led by Vincent Trocheck’s 17 tallies), ninth-most in the league.  One spot where the Panthers would still like to improve would be the power play, which ranks 10th-worst in the league.  They’ve capitalized on only 17.78% of opportunities for 32 power play tallies (led by Aleksander Barkov’s seven extra-man goals).

Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins was Florida‘s first since resuming play after the All-Star Break, and their first in the last six games.  A win tonight pulls the Panthers into an even 10 point deficit behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference lead, but more importantly, improves their lead over Tampa Bay to at least six points in the Atlantic Division.

The 26-18-8 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard position.  They play the 12th-best defense in the league, paired with the ninth-worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Wings‘ game can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Detroit finally won their first game since returning from the break on Saturday, besting the Islanders 5-1 in Motown.  While a win today does not change the Wings‘ position in the standings, it does have the potential to improve their lead over New Jersey should they fall to the Rangers.

Detroit and Florida have already played twice this season, with the Panthers winning both, although they needed overtime for the first meeting in Detroit in November.  They most recently met on Thursday in Sunrise, where the Panthers won 6-3.

Today’s game very well could be a preview of a first round matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but of course things can change with a couple months remaining in the season.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Dylan Larkin (+25 [tied for best in the league]) and Petr Mrazek (.932 save percentage [second-best in the leauge] and 2.03 GAA [tied for third-best in the league]) & Florida‘s Aaron Ekblad (+21 [sixth-best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the leauge], .93 save percentage [tied for fourth-best in the league], 23 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] and 2.13 GAA [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Although the game is in Motown, the Florida Panthers are playing some of the best hockey in the league this season.  I think it is a tough ask to expect the Wings to do much to this great team.

February 3 – Day 111 – Potential playoff matchup? But we already saw it last year!

St. Louis got exactly the start to the second half they wanted, but it was a little stressful.

The only goal of the game was scored with only 1:05 by Troy Brouwer (who I’m giving the First Star of the Game, assisted by Alex Pietrangelo (his 19th helper of the season) and Robby Fabbri.  The Preds were unable to react and get a leveling goal

Brian Elliott saved all 16 shot he faced to earn the clean sheet, while Pekka Rinne allowed only the one goal on 23 shots faced (95.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-24-9, favoring the home team by 32 points over the road squads.

With so many games yesterday, it makes sense that tonight has only three matchups on the schedule.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern when Buffalo visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Detroit at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Carolina visits Calgary (SN1).

Two of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Buffalo at Montréal and Detroit at Tampa Bay), and Detroit at Tampa Bay is the only meeting of teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (in fact, they are currently slated to meet each other in the first round).

Detroit at Tampa Bay is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

I give you three guesses to pick tonight’s Game of the Day, and you probably won’t need two of them.

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Detroit has been featured four times in the Game of the Day series before tonight, and own a 3-1-0 record in those games.  Their most recent was a 4-2 victory in Brooklyn on January 25.  This is Tampa Bay‘s eighth time being featured, with their most recent being a  5-2 loss in Colorado on January 22, which dropped their series-record to 3-3-1.

The 25-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They play the 10th best defense in the league, but have been held back by the seventh worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 65 blocks, the Wings have allowed 1473 shots to reach the incredible 18-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 121 goals against.  That being said, the penalty kill has been only average, killing 80.89% (15th-best in the league) for 30 power play goals against.

Even with Dylan Larkin’s 127 shots, the Wings have only fired the puck 1404 times, but 8.6% have found the back of the net for 121 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies).  Part of the offense’s problem has been the 13th-worst power play in the league, scoring on only 17.65% for 27 extra-man tallies (led by Gustav Nyquist’s six goals).

Detroit won their last game before the break, and will need to continue that success in the tight Atlantic division race.  A win tonight moves them past the Bolts into second in the division.

The 27-18-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best defense in the league paired with the 15th best offense.

Led by Victor Hedman’s team-leading 83 blocks, the Bolts have allowed only 1373 shots to reach 19-14-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 114 goals against.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 14th-best penalty kill in the league, killing 81.08% for only 28 goals against.

The Bolts have also been pretty good at putting on the offensive pressure, even though they only have 1420 shots to their credit (led by Steven Stamkos’ 145 attempts).  Nine percent have found the back of the net for 128 goals against, led by Stamkos’ 21 tallies.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 15th-best power play, scoring on 18.13% of attempts for 31 extra-man tallies (led by Stamkos’ 10 power play goals).

Just like their opposition, Tampa won their last game before taking the All-Star Break.  Turning that win into a streak this evening gives Tampa an actual lead over Detroit in the standings.

Thanks to winning both the previous meetings this season, Detroit would clinch the season series with anything better than a regulation loss tonight.  These squads last met in Detroit exactly three months ago, with the Wings winning 2-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+24 [tied for best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for second-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for third-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.02 GAA [second-best in the league] and 19 wins [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

Although Detroit has had the upper-hand so far this season on Tampa, the Bolts have improved a lot since their meeting in November.  I’m picking Tampa Bay to win this one and start the second half of their season on the right foot… or skate… or whatever.