Tag Archives: Nelson

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

A dozen games are on the schedule today, so let’s hop right in with our list!

A pair of games (Vancouver at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Columbus [NHLN/SN1]) get the action underway at 2 p.m., followed by seven (Calgary at St. Louis [CITY], Toronto at Buffalo [CBC], Ottawa at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Chicago at Florida [NHLN], Carolina at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders and Arizona at Washington) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck an hour later, followed by Colorado at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. Finally, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Buffalo: Only two more editions of the Battle of the QEW go down this season, and one is tonight.
  • Ottawa at Montréal: Speaking of rivalries, this one is kind of important since it could determine who raises an Atlantic Division banner.
  • Chicago at Florida: For five seasons, Brian Campbell was a member of the Panthers‘ blueline. This offseason, he decided to return to the Windy City.
  • Boston at New York: These clubs are currently tied for the second wildcard, but they won’t be after tonight.
  • San Jose at Nashville: Remember last year’s Western Semifinals? The Predators would probably like to exact some revenge tonight.

Since both the Canadiens and Senators are all but locks to for this year’s postseason, let’s head back to Brooklyn with the Islanders for their wildly important matchup with Boston.

 

The 38-30-6 Bruins have been in the playoff picture – or right outside it – for almost the entire season. A mistimed four-game losing skid (then again, when does a four-game losing skid ever come at an appropriate time?) has felled them to the second of those two categories.

Of course, this is not the first position Boston has lost in the last month. For a long while, the Bruins actually had command of third place in the Atlantic Division, but they ceded that too to a Maple Leafs team that has won seven of its last 10 games.

The main reason for this fall from grace? I’d argue sub-par play in net by 33-20-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s been in net for all four of these contests, and the Bruins have allowed an average of five goals against. In fact, his .842 save percentage and 4.53 GAA from March 16 through last night’s action is the fifth and second-worst efforts in the NHL, respectively, in that time span.

“But Rask is a great goaltender!” said Bruins fans.

And I agree; yes, he is great. He’s also no spring chicken anymore. Rask just celebrated his 30th birthday not too long ago, which makes him older than the average goaltender throughout the 2000s (per Quant Hockey), whether by mean (28.81) or median (28.3).

Whether you’re in the camp of believing Bruce Cassidy needs to play 5-5-1 Anton Khudobin more often or Don Sweeney needs to provide a better backup than a nearly 31-year-old Russian is inconsequential to the fact that Rask needs more breaks. With 59 starts, Rask has played the third-most games in a NHL crease this season, and the other two goalies with more starts are younger than him (though not by much in Cam Talbot‘s case).

Making the exhausted netminder’s demise even more troublesome is that the defense playing in front of him is one of the better – and improving – corps in the league. Over this sour stretch, they’ve allowed only 117 shots to reach his net (29.25 per game), which is barely worse than their 25.6 average allowed per game for the entire season that ranks second-best in the league.

He doesn’t wear the Bruins‘ “C” for nothing. Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that effort with his team-leading 124 shot blocks, followed closely behind by Adam McQuaid‘s 122. Center Patrice Bergeron has also been very impressive on the defensive front, as his 59 takeaways are second-most on the club. Brad Marchand has one more for the squad lead, but he also tops (Or would it be bottoms?) the team in the opposite statistic with his 74 turnovers.

When looking at the season as a whole, Boston usually finds more than enough success on the penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is sixth-best in the league. Of course, this rough patch hasn’t been so kind. The Bruins have allowed seven power play goals against (you guessed it, most in the league in this time-span) for a measly 63.1% kill rate.

One thing that has gone Boston‘s way over the past 10 days has been their power play. Co-led by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner‘s three man-advantage points, as well as David Krejci and David Pastrnak‘s two man-advantage goals, the Bruins have scored on 35.7% of their opponents’ penalties – the best mark in the league in that span. That’s not exactly a surprise though. Boston has been successful on 21.2% of their power plays all year, the eighth-best rate in the league.

First it was the Leafs taking advantage of the Bruins‘ fall from grace. Now it’s the 35-26-12 Islanders, a team riding a two-game winning streak.

This success is a far cry from where New York was before Doug Weight took command of the ship. Former head coach Jack Capuano had only managed a 17-17-8 record – the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Isles have gone on an 18-9-4 run to climb back into the eighth place in the East. In fact, that’s the fifth-best record in the league since Capuano’s firing, better even than teams like Columbus and Nashville.

The main reason for that improvement is New York‘s potent offense. The Islanders have buried 96 goals under Weight, which ties for the fourth-highest total in the league since January 17. Behind that effort is none other than John Tavares, who’s registered 32 of his 64 points on the campaign. Anders Lee also came alive, as he’s registered 13 goals to lead the team during the Weight-era.

Ready to be even more impressed by the Islanders‘ resurgent offense? They do it almost exclusively at even-strength. In fact, New York‘s power play is borderline atrocious, as they only convert 15.8% of their opportunities – the fifth-worst rate in the league.

If recent history is any indicator, it looks like the Bruins are on their way to their fifth-straight loss, as they have yet to beat New York this year in their previous two meetings. The last time these clubs ran into each other was January 16 in Boston. Between Nikolai Kulemin‘s two-goal night (one-sixth of his season total!) and Thomas Greiss‘ 32-save shutout, the Islanders walked out of the TD Garden with a 4-0 victory.

Ironically, that was Capuano’s last game as head coach of the Isles. My, how the story has come full circle.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

Though they might be a little tired from their shootout victory in Pittsburgh last night, I’m inclined to pick the Islanders right now. Something tells me that only one day off is not enough for Rask, and everything seems to be going New York‘s way right now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Wregget (1964-) – Toronto selected this goaltender 45th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Penguins. By the time his career was through, he’d earned a 225-248-53 record and hoisted the 1992 Stanley Cup.
  • Ladislav Benysek (1975-) – This defensemen was selected in the 11th round by Edmonton in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his four-year career in the league with Minnesota. Over 161 games in the NHL, he accumulated only 15 points for a -28 rating.

With their 4-3 shootout victory against Pittsburgh in the DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have improved to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

With six goals in regulation, you’d figure there’d be two a period, right? Not last night. Instead, five were struck in the second frame, and another in the third.

The scoring started 1:54 after beginning the second period when Third Star of the Game Cameron Gaunce (Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel) buried a slap shot for the second goal of his career. 2:54 later, Second Star Brock Nelson (Joshua Ho-Sang and Alan Quine) tied the game at one-all, the score that held until Lee (Bailey and First Star Tavares) scored a wrist shot to give New York the lead 4:30 later. Now it was Pittsburgh‘s turn to pull even, and Sidney Crosby (Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary) was up to the task with 6:19 remaining in the frame. With five seconds remaining before the second intermission, Casey Cizikas (Tavares) found the back of the net to send the Isles to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.

After all that action, the final goal of regulation wasn’t struck until 6:10 remained in regulation. Cullen (Gaunce and Kessel) scored his wrister to tie the game at three-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five minute three-on-three overtime period.

Looks like this one will have to be decided in the shootout. The Pens elected to go second…

  1. …meaning Anthony Beauvillier was up first. He scored on Marc-Andre Fleury, giving New York an early shootout lead.
  2. Kessel had the chance to tie the shootout, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task and made the save.
  3. Weight called Tavares’ number next as if he knew the captain would score him another goal. With a 2-0 shootout lead, the Pens were in a miss-and-lose situation.
  4. Speaking of captains, that’s exactly who took Pittsburgh‘s next shootout attempt. Crosby had better luck than Kessel and scored his shot to keep the Penguins alive.
  5. Andrew Ladd took what proved to be the Islanders‘ final shootout attempt, but was unable to beat Fleury to win the game.
  6. Instead, Halak provided the victory by saving Nick Bonino‘s shot.

Halak saved 37-of-40 shots faced (92.5%) for the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Fleury after he stopped 43-of-46 (93.5%).

It was the second-straight DtFR Game of the Day to be decided by shootout, but the fact that this one was decided by the 80-56-23 visitors gives them a one-point advantage over the road teams in the series.

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

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

Short list:

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

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

Unknown-2New York Islanders Logo

 

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

Wait, we’ve got to set the mood…

There we go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 6 – Day 55 – On either end of the spectrum

It’s another busy Tuesday in the NHL! Per usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. with four games (Edmonton at Buffalo, Vancouver at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [SN1] and Florida at Philadelphia), trailed an hour later by three more (Montréal at St. Louis [RDS], Colorado at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroit at Winnipeg). Two contests (Arizona at Chicago and Calgary at Dallas) share nightcap responsibilities, and they fulfill that duty quickly dropping the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.

  • New York at New York: In addition to being bitter rivals, the Rangers barely held off the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division a season ago.
  • Calgary at Dallas: Jyrki Jokipakka played the last two seasons in the American Airlines Center, but tonight he wears white with the visitors.

Since the defenseman never played a full season in Dallas, I think we need to tune in to the Battle of New York.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I’m as disappointed as you that this is probably definitely a cover. Not only did I check it by ear, but Shazam also won’t recognize this cut of the track. Dang you, Taylor Swift, and your restrictive and inconvienent, yet probably well-informed distrust of music streaming sites!

Anyways, the Rangers enter tonight’s game with a 17-8-1 record and have the opportunity to surpass Montréal for the best mark in the Eastern Conference should the Habs fall. They’ve gotten to that position riding their incredible offense that has struck 95 goals already this season, far-and-away the most in the league.

For most teams, 19 points should not be leading the club. Unless that club is the Rangers, which has two 19-point scorers, followed by an 18-pointer, three 17-pointers, etc. You get the idea. Those two leaders with 19-points are Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Both those skaters’ impacts have been evenly split between goals and assists, which leaves the scoring lead open to Michael Grabner, who has already lit the lamp 13 times this season.

Effectively, the easiest thing to say about New York‘s offense is this: Almost. Every. Single. Skater. Is. A. Weapon. You have been warned, Brooklyn.

Part of the reason for that success has been a successful power play. The Rangers‘ 22.7% conversion rate ranks sixth-best in the NHL. Led by Rick Nash‘s team-leading four extra-man goals and six power play points, the Blueshirts have struck 17 man-advantage goals already this season.

The other special team has also been very good. The Rangers‘ penalty kill ranks ninth-best, stopping their opposition 85.1% of the time. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of credit for the success, as he leads the team with 13 shorthanded blocks.

As good as the Rangers have been, the Islanders have been bad. In fact, they are the worst team in the conference, due almost entirely to their lackluster offense, capable of only 61 goals so far this year – the seventh-fewest in the league.

Nineteen seems to be the magic number in the Big Apple, as that’s exactly how many points Captain John Tavares has as well. Unfortunately for him, he’s not backed by a bunch of others with similar totals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson have tied for second-most productive, but with only 15 points on their resumes. Three skaters lead the Isles with six goals: Anders Lee, Nelson and Tavares.

Not surprisingly, the power play hasn’t treated the Boys from Brooklyn any better. Their 11.6% success rate with the man-advantage is the worst in the league. Equally expected, Tavares has taken the lead on this department of play as well, as his five power play points is best on the team, as do his two man-advantage tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include the IslandersDennis Seidenberg (+12 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & the Rangers‘ Grabner (+19 [best in the NHL] on 13 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (12 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (.931 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]).

I pick New York to win this game.

In all seriousness, there should be no way the Rangers lose this game. Vegas has marked the Islanders a +120 underdog, and I think that’s far too narrow a margin. It won’t pay out much, but if you’re the gambling type you should definitely pick the Blueshirts.

Hockey Birthday

  • Matt Niskanen (1986-) – The 28th-overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas, this defenseman is currently in his third season with Washington. So far this season, his nine points is second-most among the Capitals‘ defensive corps.

If you like offense and goal-scoring, yesterday’s Game of the Day was for you, as Pittsburgh beat the visiting Senators 8-5.

Hopefully this summary won’t be too long-winded.

First Star of the Game Bryan Rust (Second Star Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang) opened the scoring for Pittsburgh only 1:45 into the game, but their lead lasted only 6:33 before Kyle Turris (Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman) leveled for the Senators. The Penguins regained the lead only 27 seconds before Sidney Crosby (Conor Sheary and Ian Cole) regained the lead with a wrist shot. 6:16 before the first intermission, Erik Karlsson (Mark Stone) buried a wrist shot to tie the game at two-all.

A minute after returning to the ice, Stone’s (Dion Phaneuf and Karlsson) power play backhander gave the Sens their first lead of the game, which doubled 6:08 later when Mike Hoffman (Karlsson and Stone) scored a power play snap shot. Matt Cullen (Rust) set the score at 4-3 with a shorthanded backhander only 80 seconds later, and Third Star Phil Kessel (Justin Schultz and Cole) tied the game with 5:47 remaining in the second period. Schultz (Malkin and Kessel) scored a goal of his own 24 seconds later to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead that held into the second intermission.

Malkin (Kessel) takes credit for the eventual game-winning goal with a backhander only 1:05 after retaking the ice. Ottawa could manage only one more goal in the game, courtesy of a Phaneuf (Turris and Karlsson) wrister at the 6:17 mark. Rust scored both insurance goals, the first a penalty shot and the second an empty-netter assisted by Chris Kunitz and Brian Dumoulin.

Matthew Murray takes credit for Pittsburgh‘s victory, saving 17-of-18 shots faced (94.4%). He replaced starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who saved 12-of-16 (75%) before being replaced after Hoffman’s lead-taking goal 7:08 into the second period. Fleury, of course, earned no decision.

Craig Anderson takes the loss after saving 36-of-43 shots faced (83.7%). He was replaced by ex-Penguin Mike Condon with 7:24 remaining in regulation (the score was then 7-5), who was the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker before Rust’s third goal. Condon saved both shots he faced and, just like Fleury, he earned no decision.

The Penguins‘ victory increases the home sides’ lead over the roadies to four points in the DtFR Game of the Day series, advancing their record to 30-19-8.

December 4 – Day 53 – Frans will be Frans

For a Sunday, we have a good sampling of games to watch. Montréal visits Los Angeles (RDS) at 3 p.m., followed two hour later by Tampa Bay at Carolina. The final round of matinee games drops the puck at 6 p.m. with two contests (Philadelphia at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroit at the New York Islanders), with Winnipeg at Chicago (SN) waiting until the usual 7 p.m. starting time. Two games share the role of nightcap tonight (Anaheim at Calgary [SN360] and Minnesota at Edmonton [SN1]), dropping the puck at 9:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Up until this season, every single game of Frans Nielsen‘s career was spent wearing blue and orange. This afternoon, he’ll dress in the Barclays Center’s visitor’s locker room for the first time.

UnknownNew York Islanders Logo

 

Way back in 2002, New York drafted an 18-year-old that would become the first Dane to play in the NHL. Of course, Nielsen’s career is not marked simply by that.

His tenure with the Islanders was a successful one.  From the time he made his NHL debut in the 2006-07 to last season, he was the third-leading scorer for the Isles, including 230 assists to tie for second-most for the club in that time span.

Nielsen has continued that success in Motown, as his 14 points ties for for second-most for the Red Wings.  Interestingly, he’s taken more of a goal scoring role with his new team, as his six goals are second-most on the team.

Detroit comes to the Barclays Center with an 11-11-3 record, sitting in seventh place in the Atlantic Division. While their new center seems to be a good pickup, the Wings still struggle to score the puck, as their 58 goals ties for eighth-fewest.

Henrik Zetterberg has headlined Detroit‘s offense so far this season with 17 points to his credit, but it’s been sophomore Dylan Larkin completing many of the plays – his eight goals is tops in the Motor City. To put those efforts in perspective, Zetterberg’s 17 points tie for 56th in the league, and Larkin ties for 37th.

As would be expected from the low production, the power play has also suffered. Successful on only 14.9% of opportunities, the Wings are 10th-worst with the man-advantage in the NHL. This has been where Nielsen has truly shone, as his six power play points are a club-best. However, they’ve all be assists, and four skaters (Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Larkin and Thomas Vanek) have two extra-man tallies for the clubhouse lead. Unfortunately, Abdelkader and Helm find themselves on the Wings‘ injured reserve, which has done nothing to help a sputtering offense.

Hosting Nielsen and the Wings this evening are the 9-10-4 Islanders, the worst team in the Eastern Conference. They’ve earned that position by scoring only 58 goals, tying them for eighth-fewest in the NHL.

Don’t tell Captain John Tavares that he’s not supposed to be racking up the points, as he already has 18 to lead his club. In addition, his six goals ties him with Brock Nelson for the scoring-lead in Brooklyn, but once again those numbers need to be put in perspective. 18 points is good enough to only tie for 45th-best in the league, and six goals ties for 84th.

If Detroit‘s power play is bad, New York‘s is definitely worse. Scoring on only 11.8% of man-advantages earns the Islanders second-worst in the NHL, and worst in the conference. Tavares has been the biggest threat with five power play points, two of which are goals.

Before we go any further, we need to clear something up. Not everybody is going to be a Sidney Crosby or Patrik Laine goal scorer (their 16 goals are the league benchmark), nor are many going to match Connor McDavid‘s impressive 34 points. I get that. But it’s the fact that these skaters for both clubs – Larkin, Nelson, Tavares and Zetterberg – are the ones leading their respective clubs. If they’re the best the club has to offer, what does that mean for the guys behind them?

And that, my dear children, is how you get anemic offenses.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Zetterberg (12 assists among 17 points [both lead the team]) and New York‘s Tavares (12 assists among 18 points [both lead the team]).

In a game that I would have assumed to be a pick-’em, Vegas has marked the home Isles as the -145 favorite. The main reason I’ll stick with the odds-makers’ prediction is that Detroit not only played yesterday, but had to travel from Pittsburgh, while New York hasn’t played in three days and is riding a three-game winning streak.

Hockey Birthday

  • Montréal Canadiens (1909-) – The oldest active hockey club in the world predates their own league.
  • Alex Delvecchio (1931-) – This center played an incredible 1549 games over 24 seasons with Detroit, hoisting the Stanley Cup three times. Fats was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.
  • Rick Middleton (1953-) – Nifty played right wing for 1005 games over his 14-season career, most of which with Boston. Although he never won a title, he was thrice named an All-Star.
  • Dave Taylor (1955-) – Another right wing, he was drafted by Los Angeles in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft. He played 1111 games over his 17-season career, and his number 18 hangs in the Staples Center’s rafters.
  • Jassen Cullimore (1972-) – Although the 29th-overall selection in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, this defenseman spent most of his days in Tampa Bay – including that team that won the 2004 Stanley Cup.

I expected a tight contest in yesterday’s Game of the Day, and that’s what we got when Boston beat Buffalo 2-1.

The lone goal of the first period was struck with 5:50 remaining in the frame, belonging to David Krejci (Brandon Carlo and David Backes) and the Bruins.

Patrice Bergeron (Second Star of the Game David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand) doubled Boston‘s score 7:44 into the third frame with a backhander. Third Star Evander Kane (Sam Reinhart) buried his first goal of the season 1:28 later, but the Sabres could not manage another tally to complete the comeback.

First Star Tuukka Rask saved 35-of-36 (97.2%) shots faced to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Robin Lehner, who saved 31-of-33 (93.9%).

Even though Boston won, the home teams still have a three-point lead over the visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series with their 29-19-7 record.

November 18 – Day 37 – Another Friday brawl in New York?

For a Friday, we have quite a few games on the schedule.

Thanks, Pharrell.

Anyways, three games find their start at the usual 7 p.m. (Pittsburgh at the New York Islanders [SN/TVAS], Detroit at Washington and the New York Rangers at Columbus), with Montréal at Carolina (RDS) waiting half an hour before beginning their festivities. This evening’s nightcap is Chicago at Calgary, which drops the puck at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

I know we’ve already featured both these teams this week, but their rivalry game in Brooklyn is the only fixture that really catches my eye.

pittsburgh_penguins_logoNew York Islanders Logo

 

Just in case you aren’t familiar with this rivalry, I’d like to present you with this:

Total, you just witnessed almost six hours-worth of penalties. Bonus material: one of my favorite hockey bouts, the Rick DiPietro v Brent Johnson scrap they were talking about:

For those unfamiliar with this fight, the right-handed Johnson throws one left hook – one- on DiPietro, and breaks his cheekbone. It goes without saying that these teams have a history of not playing nicely with one another. Whether that plays out in fisticuffs or goals remains to be seen.

After the textbook Penguin-demolition by the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game with a 10-4-2 record. While it wasn’t on display in that game, Pittsburgh‘s strength continues to be their high-flying offense that has lit the lamp 48 times.

Evgeni Malkin has statistically been the lead man of the Penguins‘ offense with 15 points to his credit. That being said, Sidney Crosby has been the one burying most of the goals, scoring 10 goals in as many games played after missing six contests due to his presesason concussion.

The Steel City is home to the fifth-best power play in the league, successful on 23.6% of their attempts. Phil Kessel has been the man in charge on the man-advantage, responsible for nine power play points, including six assists. Patric Hornqvist has been the one completing most of the plays, potting four power play goals.

Just like the Penguins, the last time New York was featured in our Game of the Day series was their last game played – a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Lightning. They have a 5-8-3 record for worst in the Eastern Conference, with most of the responsibility, in my opinion, falling on the defense and goaltending.

The Islanders have allowed 51 goals so far this season, with most of those coming against 3-5-3 Jaroslav Halak. He has a .904 save percentage and 3.09 GAA to his credit, which ranks 15th and 12th-worst among all goalies with six or more appearances.

While his performance has been poor, it could be argued that he’s being worked a little bit more than the average goaltender. OK, a lot more. Be it Halak or Thomas Greiss in net, the Isles allow an average of 31.7 shots against per night, the seventh-highest in the league. Johnny Boychuk continues to deserve credit for his 43 blocks – the second-highest total in the league – but he is the only Islander with more than 40 shot blocks to his credit. While blocks are not always the answer, New York‘s defense needs to improve to limit opposing opportunities in a hurry.

As you might expect, the Isles‘ penalty kill is not exactly admirable either. They’ve negated their own infractions only 79.7% of the time, which ties with Los Angeles for seventh-worst in the league. Part of the reason they haven’t been able to find success is because they’re on the penalty kill more often than they should be. They allow 3.8 opposing power plays per night, well over the league average of 3.2. That extra effort not only exhausts the team for future kills, but also during even-strength play as well.

Part of the reason the offense hasn’t been able to find success is they haven’t capitalized on their best opportunities. New York has scored on only 10.4% of their power plays, the fourth-worst rate in the NHL. Captain John Tavares has three power play points to his credit, but only he and Brock Nelson have more than one point on the man-advantage.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include New York‘s Dennis Seidenberg (+10 [leads the team]) and Tavares (five goals for 12 points [both lead the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (10 goals [tied for second-most in the league]) and Matthew Murray (.951 save percentage [leads the NHL] for a 1.62 GAA [third-best in the league]).

Vegas has a +138 next to the Islanders, which might be generous. If my estimations are correct, New York‘s chances of earning even a point out of this one are slim. But hey, it is a rivalry game, so anything can happen.

Hockey Birthday

  • Jocelyn Lemieux (1967-) – St. Louis selected the right wing 10th overall in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, but he actually spent a majority of his career with the rival Blackhawks. Nowadays he is working for RDS, so keep an eye out for him in the CanadiensHurricanes broadcast!

St. Louis held serve at home in yesterday’s Game of the Day, besting San Jose 3-2 on a deciding power play.

The Sharks opened the scoring at the 6:16 mark of the first period with a Logan Couture (Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward) wrister to set the score at 1-0. That lead lasted only 4:22 before First Star of the Game Jaden Schwartz (Alex Pietrangelo) leveled with a wrister of his own. The 1-1 score held into the first intermission.

8:45 after resuming play, Schwartz potted his second goal of the night on another wrist shot, but once again a lead didn’t last long. Kevin Labanc (Joe Thornton and Justin Braun) scored the first goal of his NHL career only 19 seconds later to set the score at 2-2. With 4:04 remaining in the second frame, Second Star David Perron (Third Star Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri) capitalized on a Mikkel Boedker interference penalty to score the eventual game-winner.

Jake Allen earned the victory after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (93.5%), forcing Martin Jones to take the loss, saving 22-of-25 (88%).

The second-straight home victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series sets the record at 23-12-4, favoring the home squads by a dozen points over the roadies.

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

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

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

Short list:

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

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

UnknownNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

As I said, he likes to hit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey birthday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 4 – Day 112 – It’s another rematch!

In what is currently a First Round matchup in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning held home ice to earn the 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

The Bolts scored the first goal after 21:23 of play, courtesy of a J.T. Brown wrister, assisted by Braydon Coburn (his seventh helper of the season), but the Wings leveled the score only 3:43 later with a snap shot from Gustav Nyquist, assisted by Tomas Tatar (his 15th helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.  Tampa‘s game-winner came at the 6:30 mark of the second with a Tyler Johnson wrister, assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman (his 24th helper of the season).  The 2-1 Lightning lead held into the second intermission.

The Lightning‘s lone insurance goal was Kucherov’s 21st tally of the season, a wrister off the assist from Ondrej Palat, setting the score at the 3-1 final.

Ben Bishop earns the win by saving 24 of 25 (96%), while Petr Mrazek takes the loss after saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 49-24-9, favoring the home squad by 34 points.

It’s a busy Thursday in the NHL!  The action starts at… you guessed it… 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Buffalo and Minnesota at the New York Rangers)!  7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it four more games (the New York Islanders at Washington [NBCSN], New Jersey at Toronto, Edmonton at Ottawa and Detroit at Florida), followed by two more at the top of the hour (San Jose at St. Louis and Philadelphia at Nashville).  9 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Dallas at Colorado and Chicago at Arizona), with the co-nightcaps occurring an hour later (Columbus at Vancouver and Anaheim at Los Angeles [NBCSN]).

Five of tonight’s 12 games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Buffalo, New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles), while another set of five are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, San Jose at St. Louis, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles).

Four of tonight’s games have some special notes associated.  Minnesota brings with them Jarret Stoll, an ex-Ranger of this season, and Edmonton‘s Eric Gryba makes his first return to Ottawa after three seasons of playing with the Sens.  New YorkWashington is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and John Tortorella will coach his first game in Vancouver since being released in May of 2014.

While those returns are intriguing, we grow closer to the playoffs everyday, and what better way to realize that than taking a look at last year?

New York Islanders LogoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight is New York‘s fourth game in the DtFR Game of the Day series, in which they own a 1-2-0 record.  Their most recent appearance was on January 25 when they hosted the Red Wings and lost 4-2.  Washington has been featured nine times before tonight’s game, and own a 6-3-0 record in such games, with their most recent being a 5-2 victory over the Rangers on home ice.

The 26-16-6 New York Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  They have a top-10 defense paired with one of the better offenses in the league.

Led by Calvin de Haan’s 169 blocks, the Islanders defense has allowed only 1457 shots to reach 12-9-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 118 goals against, eighth fewest in the league.  The Isles also own the second-best penalty kill in the league, killing 86.9% for only 19 power play goals against.

John Tavares has spearheaded the Islanders‘ offense with a team-leading 145 shots, with the team being responsible for 1460 shots total.  9% have found the back of the net for 132 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 20 tallies).  The biggest thing holding the Islanders back is their 15th-worst power play.  They’re successful on only 18.12% of attempts for 25 power play goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s five).

New York‘s most recent game was a 5-3 victory over the Wild on Tuesday.  Pending the Rangers‘ result against those Wild, the Islanders do have the opportunity to jump the Blueshirts into second place in the division.

The 35-9-4 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the league, leading the second place Chicago Blackhawks by two points.  There’s no doubting that they deserve that spot, as they have the best defense and second-best offense.

Led by Karl Alzner’s 122 blocks, the Caps have only allowed 1376 shots to reach 30-5-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.6% for only 108 goals against, fewest in the league.  Part of the reason Washington has found such success has been their seventh-best penalty kill, killing 83.67% of opposing power plays for only 24 power play goals against.

The offense is no slouch, either.  Led by Alex Ovechkin’s 234 shots, the Capitals have fired 1482 pucks on goal, of which a whopping 10.7% have found the back of the net for 158 goals (Ovechkin leads the way with 28 tallies).  That offense has been supported by the league-leading offense, scoring on 25.33% for 38 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 11 power play tallies).

Going back to before the All-Star Game, the Capitals are actually on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday.  While the Capitals may not have anyone to surpass, a win tonight does have the potential to increase their lead over the Rangers in the division, the Panthers in the conference and the Blackhawks for the Presidents’ Trophy.

In their only other meeting this season, the Capitals beat the Islanders 4-1 in Brooklyn on January 7.  While that game may not have been so tight, last season’s playoff series was.  The Caps needed seven games to knock off the Isles before eventually falling to the other team from the Big Apple.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Washington‘s Holtby (30 wins [leads the league], 2.07 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and .929 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+25 [leads the league], 36 assists [third-most in the league] and 51 points [fifth-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (28 goals [tied for second-most in the league] and +20 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

It’s tough to pick against the Capitals, especially on home ice.  Washington expects to pick up the offense this night, as Ovi is making his return after serving his one-game suspension for missing/skipping the All-Star Game.  I think this skid ends at two.

January 25 – Day 107 – I told you we need to watch Detroit soon…

Just like I predicted, the Chicago Blackhawks used their return to the United Center to regroup and beat the division-rival St. Louis Blues with a two-goal shutout.

The game-winning goal was not scored until 35:26 had ticked off the clock, as Third Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored off assists from Second Star Patrick Kane (his 43rd helper of the season) and Michal Rozsival.  The one-goal lead held into the second intermission.

The lone insurance goal was scored on the power play, only 4:56 after resuming play.  Andrew Shaw was responsible, assisted by Marian Hossa (his 17th helper of the season) and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

First Star Corey Crawford improves his record to 28-11-2 after saving all 25 shots he faced, while Brian Elliott’s falls to 10-6-5 after saving 23 of 25 (92%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-20-9, favoring the home squad by 40 points over the roadies.

After only four games played yesterday, the NHL picks back up the action today with six games.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with three games (Detroit at the New York Islanders, Boston at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Montréal at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Rangers (NBCSN).  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps drop the puck at 8:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Dallas and Arizona at Minnesota).

None of tonight’s games  are between divisional rivals, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at New York and Arizona at Minnesota).

In addition to watching a Western Conference game yesterday, I think the WingsIsles game will be more competitive, so let’s focus in on the action in the Barclays Center.

Unknown-1New York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game marks Detroit‘s fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 loss to the Stars on November 8.  New York has been featured twice before tonight’s game, and are 1-1-0 in such games.  Their most recent in the series was also a 4-1 loss at home, but this one was to the Capitals on January 7.

The 24-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have used an above-average defense to get them there.

Even with Danny DeKeyser’s 65 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed 1444 shots to reach 17-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 122 goals against, 12th-least in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has been above-average, the penalty kill still has room to improve, killing 80.65% of opposing attempts for 30 power play goals against.  To make matters worse, the kill still has yet to score their first short-handed goal of the season.

Standout rookie Dylan Larkin may have 127 shots to his credit, but the Wings as a whole only have 1378 on the season, of which 8.5% have found the back of the net for 118 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies), seventh-fewest in the NHL.  Part of the problem for the lack of offense has been the below-average power play, where the Wings have scored only 17.11% for 26 power play goals, led by Gustav Nyquist’s six extra-man tallies.

The Wings‘ most recent game played was a 4-3 loss to the Ducks on Saturday.  A Detroit win tonight propels them past Tampa Bay for second place in the division, while a loss runs the chance of them falling behind Boston and into a wildcard position.

The 25-15-6 New York Islanders currently occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference, using a top-10 offense paired with an above-average defense.  The Isles are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Led by Calvin de Haan’s 117 blocks, the Isles have allowed only 1389 shots to reach 12-8-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 114 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  The strongest facet of the defense has been the penalty kill, which has killed 87.86% of opposing opportunities, allowing only 17 goals.  To make matters worse for Detroit, New York also has four shorties to their credit, led by Cal Clutterbuck’s two tallies.

Led by Captain John Tavares’ 136 shots, New York has fired a solid 1393 shots, with 9% finding the back of the net for 128 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 18 tallies), 13th-most in the league.  The biggest deficiency has been the power play, where the Isles have only scored on 17.78% for 24 goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s four extra-man tallies).  To make matters worse, the power play has given up five short-handed goals, two more than the league average.

New York won their most recent game, 5-2 victory in Ottawa.  A win tonight increases their lead over fourth-place New Jersey to three points, and has the potential to propel them past the team from Manhattan in the division.

This will be the first of three meetings between these squads this season.  Last year, New York won the series 2-1-0.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+23 [fourth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league]), should he play.

Detroit is a peculiar team to figure out, as they always seem to do just enough to win a lot of their games.  That being said, I think New York, especially in Brooklyn, will be too much to handle.