Tag Archives: Peter DeBoer

Game of the week: December 17-23

The holiday break is so close we can almost taste it, but there’s still a little more work to be done before the NHL begins its three-day break on Monday. Without further ado, this week’s offerings include:

NHL SCHEDULE: December 17-23
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 17
7 p.m. Anaheim Pittsburgh 4-2
7 p.m. Vegas Columbus 0-1
7:30 p.m. Boston Montréal 4-0
7:30 p.m. Nashville Ottawa 3-4 (OT)
9 p.m. New York Islanders Colorado Avalanche 4-1
Tuesday, December 18
7 p.m. Florida Buffalo 5-2
7 p.m. Toronto New Jersey 7-2
7 p.m. Anaheim Ducks New York Rangers 1-3
7 p.m. Detroit Philadelphia 2-3
8 p.m. San Jose Minnesota 4-0
8:30 p.m. Nashville Chicago 1-2
8:30 p.m. Calgary Dallas 0-2
9 p.m. St. Louis Edmonton 4-1
9 p.m. New York Islanders Arizona Coyotes 3-1
10 p.m. Tampa Bay Vancouver 5-2
10:30 p.m. Winnipeg Los Angeles 1-4
Wednesday, December 19
8 p.m. Pittsburgh Washington 2-1
8:30 p.m. Montréal Colorado 1-2
Thursday, December 20
7 p.m. Anaheim Boston SN360
7 p.m. Florida Toronto TVAS
7 p.m. Nashville Philadelphia ESPN+
7 p.m. Minnesota Pittsburgh
7 p.m. Detroit Carolina
7 p.m. New Jersey Columbus
8:30 p.m. Chicago Dallas
9 p.m. Tampa Bay Calgary
9 p.m. Montréal Arizona RDS, TSN2
10 p.m. St. Louis Vancouver ESPN+
10 p.m. New York Islanders Vegas Golden Knights SN360
10:30 p.m. Winnipeg San Jose
Friday, December 21
7 p.m. Ottawa New Jersey RDS
7 p.m. Buffalo Washington NBCSN, SN, TVAS
9 p.m. Chicago Colorado ESPN+, SN360
Saturday, December 22
1 p.m. Nashville Boston NHLN, SN, SN1
1 p.m. Columbus Philadelphia ESPN+
2 p.m. Florida Detroit
4 p.m. Montréal Vegas RDS, TSN2
4 p.m. Los Angeles San Jose NBCSN, SN1
4 p.m. St. Louis Calgary
7 p.m. Colorado Arizona
7 p.m. Anaheim Buffalo
7 p.m. New York Rangers Toronto Maple Leafs CBC, NHLN, SN, SN1
7 p.m. Washington Ottawa CITY, SN360, TVAS
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Carolina
8 p.m. Dallas Minnesota
10 p.m. Winnipeg Vancouver CBC, SN360
10 p.m. Tampa Bay Edmonton CITY, ESPN+, SN1
Sunday, December 23
12:30 p.m. Columbus New Jersey SN
5 p.m. Boston Carolina SN1
7 p.m. Florida Chicago ESPN+
7 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers New York Rangers NHLN
7:30 p.m. Detroit Toronto SN, SN360, TVAS
8 p.m. Los Angeles Vegas
8 p.m. Arizona San Jose
8 p.m. New York Islanders Dallas Stars

For those that didn’t keep count, that’s a healthy 55 tilts to keep us entertained while family members you simply adore ask a multitude of questions you’d rather they not.

In the rivalries department, the NHL loaded us up with six showdowns this week, including Boston at Montréal, Pittsburgh at Washington, Los Angeles at San Jose, the Rangers at Toronto, Philadelphia at the Rangers and Detroit at Toronto.

Two rematches from this spring’s edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will also take place: the previously mentioned Pens-Caps game and Los Angeles’ trip to Sin City Sunday night.

Finally, the biggest player return of the week will take place tonight when F Max Domi makes his first trip back to Glendale to take on the Coyotes, the club that drafted him 12th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

However, of all those games highlighted, there’s still another tonight that will have my full attention. Both the Jets and Sharks entered this season with high expectations, but only one has truly flexed its muscles thus far this season. Perhaps that will be just the motivation San Jose needs to find its next gear.

Currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, the 22-10-2 Winnipeg Jets are technically the top team by playing one fewer game than both the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators.

Winnipeg’s last outing wasn’t exactly one to be proud of (the Jets fell 4-1 in Los Angeles to the lowly Kings on Tuesday), but it had been riding a five-game winning streak coming into that game. In fact, in their past 11 games, the Jets boast a 9-2-0 record that includes five overtime or shootout victories.

To the surprise of none, Winnipeg’s greatest strength is undoubtedly its offense. Having averaged 3.56 goals per game for the entire season (the fourth-best mark in the NHL), Head Coach Peter DeBoer will certainly have a plan for how he wants his team to slow down the impressive talents of C Mark Scheifele (21-25-46 points) and RW Blake Wheeler (5-39-44) on Winnipeg’s top line.

However, that will be a difficult task to pull off because the Jets’ attack has been even more potent than usual during this 11-game run. Since November 29, the Jets have averaged an outstanding four goals per game, which is tied with, coincidentally, San Jose for third best in the league in that time.

The previously mentioned Scheifele and Wheeler have certainly had their fingerprints all over that dynamic attack, as they’ve posted respective 8-12-20 and 1-14-15 totals in their last 11 outings. However, they’ve also been joined by LW Nikolaj Ehlers (7-5-12), D Josh Morrissey (3-8-11 in nine games) and D Dustin Byfuglien (1-8-9 in seven games) in averaging at least a point per game during this run, creating a defensive nightmare for most teams not as talented as the Sharks on the blue line.

The San Jose Sharks were supposed to already be atop the Western Conference – if not the entire NHL – according to many preseason reports, yet they find themselves stuck with a 19-11-5 record good enough for only second place in the Pacific Division.

But don’t read that as the Sharks being a bad team. They’re riding a five-game winning streak and have posted a 7-1-0 record in their past eight outings, so it seems like the team is finally starting to realize its potential. The next question, of course, is just how good can this team be, but that’s an answer the Jets would rather not answer tonight.

During this eight-game run, San Jose has been clicking on all cylinders; literally everything is gelling, and the numbers are showing just that.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Sharks’ game right now is their attack. Currently in a tie with Ottawa for eighth-best offense on the season by averaging 3.31 goals per game, the Sharks’ effort since December 2 has made all but Tampa Bay jealous. Led by F Logan Couture‘s impressive 5-6-11 totals in the last eight games, San Jose has managed a dominant 4.25 goals per game during this run.

Joining Couture in averaging at least a point per game since the beginning of the month are RW Timo Meier (5-5-10 in seven games played), F Tomas Hertl (4-5-9) and D Erik Karlsson (0-8-8).

That’s right, the same Karlsson that looked like he wasn’t panning out in Silicon Valley is on a bit of a hot streak of late. His goal scoring may be down from his Ottawa days (last season’s nine goals in 71 appearances was a poor season for him, and this year’s pace has him set to register only five markers), but the 10-year NHL veteran is still making his presence known on the scorecard.

In addition to scoring, this dynamic offense has also had some incredible influence on the defensive zone by maintaining elongated possessions. During this eight-game run, San Jose has allowed only 27.88 shots against per game, the fifth-best mark in the NHL since December 2 and only two shots worse than the Islanders’ league-leading pace set in that same time span.

Of course, D Justin Braun (2.3 blocks per game since December 2), D Brenden Dillon (2.8 hits per game during this run) and Karlsson (11 takeaways in his past eight outings) have certainly done their fair share on the defensive end as well.

If anyone is appreciative of that effort, it’s surely 14-7-3 G Martin Jones, tonight’s starter. Though he’s struggled for much of the season (made evident by his unusually low .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA for the campaign), he’s shown signs of improvement lately. He’s earned five of the Sharks’ last seven wins, posting a much more familiar .936 save percentage and 1.94 GAA in his last seven starts.

If Jones has finally rounded into form for the year, this Sharks blue line will truly begin to influence play in the offensive zone, which should be a very scary proposition for the entire Western Conference.

When two high powered offenses are going at it, I usually side with the better of the two goaltenders to determine the game’s winner. In his past eight starts, 15-9-1 G Connor Hellebuyck has earned six wins on the back of a .91 save percentage and 2.72 GAA (both nominal improvements on his .908 season save percentage and associated 2.9 GAA).

Compare that to Jones’ numbers, and the answer is obvious: the Sharks should come away winners tonight and send the home fans happy.

San Jose Sharks 2018-19 Season Preview

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San Jose Sharks

45-27-10, 100 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division

Lost in the Second Round, 4-2, to VGK

Additions: D Cody Donaghey (acquired from OTT), D Erik Karlsson (acquired from OTT), F Francis Perron (acquired from OTT), D Kyle Wood (acquired from ARI)

Subtractions: F Rudolfs Balcers (traded to OTT), D Julius Bergman (traded to OTT), F Mikkel Boedker (traded to OTT), D Dylan DeMelo (traded to OTT), F Eric Fehr (signed with MIN), F Jannik Hansen (signed, KHL), F Adam Helewka (traded to ARI), F Mike Hoffman (acquired from OTT, then traded to FLA), F Josh Norris (traded to OTT), F Daniil Tarasov (signed, KHL), F Chris Tierney (traded to OTT), F Joel Ward (signed to a PTO with MTL)

Still Unsigned: F Brandon Mashinter

Re-signed: F Tomas Hertl, F Evander Kane, F Joe Thornton

Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the San Jose Sharks have a legitimate Cup contending roster on paper. They’re going to make a Cup or bust run this season.

And perhaps the season after that and the next one after that too.

Next to the Toronto Maple Leafs signing free agent forward John Tavares to a long-term seven-year, $77 million deal, the Sharks had one of the best offseasons in the league.

Not only did San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson convince Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion to trade goal-scoring winger Mike Hoffman to the Sharks, then flip the 28-year-old to the Florida Panthers for draft picks after Dorion originally wanted to avoid dealing with a division rival altogether, but Wilson managed to convince Dorion he wasn’t about to make the same mistake of making the Sharks way better than before twice in one offseason.

No, actually, in a span of almost three months.

Wilson got rid of cap space by clearing Mikkel Boedker from the roster for Hoffman, then dumping Hoffman in Florida and landed– oh yeah, that other guy in one of this offseason’s craziest stories involving alleged harassment on social media– Erik Karlsson.

The Sharks cleared about $8.000-9.000 million in cap room by sending Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo and Boedker to the Senators over the course of the summer in exchange, ultimately, for Karlsson and his $6.500 million cap hit.

Mind you, Karlsson is a pending-UFA in July 2019 still.

They didn’t land Tavares, but defense wins championships is how the saying goes anyway.

San Jose has the No. 1 and 2 defenders in blue line scoring in the National Hockey League and they have Marc-Edouard Vlasic who could conceivably earn some Norris Trophy consideration nods even without Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.

Speaking of Burns and Karlsson, which one of those guys will be on the Sharks second defensive pair?

Peter DeBoer has a plethora of options and choices to make as he gears up for another season behind the bench in San Jose. Last season’s 45-27-10 record (100 points) should improve. Just how far past 50 wins can they go?

How many shutouts will Martin Jones record with his new defender wearing No. 65 in front of him?

Evander Kane signed a seven-year extension worth $49 million ($7.000 million per season) in May and is looking to maintain the ferocious pace of play and scoring alongside Joe Pavelski.

Meanwhile, Joe Thornton’s back for what might be one last shot at a Cup.

Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Logan Couture, Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen— the gang’s all here and, hell, the depth never ends!

The third time, as they say, is a charm. Will DeBoer’s third trip back to the Stanley Cup Final be the one to do the trick and land the Sharks their first Cup in franchise history? Are we really going to get ahead of ourselves before October even begins?

Hell yeah we are.

If Toronto can do it with John Tavares, Silicon Valley should be going just as crazy for Erik Karlsson. Besides, the Maple Leafs still have to re-sign current-RFA William Nylander and the Sharks already have their crew assembled for victory.

Offseason Grade: A

Remember, there’s no such thing as an “A+” kids. Not in college, at least.

Therefore, Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks hit it out of the park a la the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason, but without John Tavares– and to think, the Sharks were once in on Tavares too!

Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That is all. Defense. Wins. Championships.

(At least, that’s the hope, anyway.)

DTFR Podcast #124- 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview

Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

2018 Offseason Preview: San Jose Sharks

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the San Jose Sharks and their outlook for the summer.

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The San Jose Sharks quietly strolled along in the Pacific Division for much of the season, spending time in 2nd place behind the Vegas Golden Knights. If it wasn’t for slipping considerably down the stretch in a critical time where every point matters, the Sharks would’ve had home ice for their First Round matchup against the Anaheim Ducks.

Instead, head coach Peter DeBoer and his players finished the season 3rd in the Pacific, with 100 points on the season– one point behind Anaheim– and a 45-27-10 record.

For not having the spotlight on the team most of the year and the pressure that had built up in 2016 and 2017 thanks to the club’s Stanley Cup Final run in 2016, General Manager Doug Wilson made a splash acquiring Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline.

The Sharks were all in.

They swept the Ducks in the First Round, proving home ice advantage didn’t matter to them and even beat the Golden Knights on the road in the Second Round in double-overtime.

But San Jose fell to the Vegas offense and stellar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and the 2018 postseason run was cut short in six games without an appearance by Joe Thornton— in the literal sense, because he was oft-injured this season.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Wilson and the Sharks have the 21st overall pick in the 2018 Draft and could target a defender or fall in line with the “pick the best available” mantra of the first round past the top-10 picks in the draft.

In any case, San Jose realistically has a chance of landing either Jack McBain, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac, Ryan Merkley, Olivier-Benoit Groulx, Rasmus Sandin, Albin Eriksson, Adam Ginning, Fillip Hallander or Ryan McLeod.

The club does not have any picks in the second or third round as things currently stand at the time of this writing.

Pending free agents

The Sharks have a little more than $7.500 million to work with this summer after delivering a significant pay raise to Evander Kane, keeping him around for the long-term in Northern California, alongside Joe Pavelski.

Speaking of Pavelski, he’ll need a new contract next summer.

Back to the present, for now, though.

Jannik Hansen, Thornton, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward are all pending-unrestricted free agents.

Hansen, 32, might have some staying power in that he’s one of the younger pending-UFAs currently on the NHL roster in San Jose, however, he only amassed 2-12–14 totals in 46 games this season. That’s not good and the Sharks can move on, given the emergence of Marcus Sorensen and, well, the overall outlook of the organization.

It could come down to re-signing one or two of these pending-UFAs if they’re willing to take a tremendous discount and limited role.

While a guy like Thornton wouldn’t have as limited of a role as Hansen, Fehr or Ward, he is coming off of a season plagued by injuries.

If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll be back, but at a discount for sure. Not an $8.000 million, one-year deal, but something like a $1.000 million one-year deal with performance bonuses and the like.

Despite being limited to 47 games this season, the Boston Bruins 1st overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft still had 13 goals and 23 assists (36 points).

At 38, Thornton could be the next ageless wonder, a la Jaromir Jagr— minus all the traveling around the league, because Thornton is that dedicated to the organization he’s been with since the 2005-06 season.

Without a doubt the plan in Silicon Valley is Cup or bust in 2019 and Joe Thornton still haven’t won his Cup.

But he’ll surely take his time to mull over a decision on whether to return or not, let alone return to the game.

Fehr, 32, was a low-cost, potentially high-reward on the fourth line acquisition the Sharks made in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Fehr didn’t have all that far to go to meet up with his new team. He was already on loan to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL).

Unless he can rebound, he might be getting an AHL deal this summer.

Drafted by the Washington Capitals 18th overall in the deep 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Fehr had three goals and one assist (four points) in 18 games with the Sharks and Maple Leafs this season.

He won’t be back.

Like Thornton, Joel Ward is getting up there in age. He’s 37 and really slowing down in offense. Ward had 5-7–12 totals in 52 games this season and did not play in the postseason. He may still find an NHL team or two interested in his services this summer, but it’ll be outside of San Jose.

Doug Wilson’s biggest priorities this offseason is keeping things intact while envisioning a younger defense somewhere down the not-so-distant line.

But first, he’ll have to re-sign pending-RFAs Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney.

Hertl, 24, had 22 goals and 24 assists (46 points) in 79 games this season. He’ll be looking for dollars or term and the Sharks will have to work around some things to give it to him, but they absolutely should.

Tierney, 23, has proven to be an effective second or third line center with 17-23–40 totals in 82 games this season. It’s the first time in his young NHL career (4th season) that he’s played in all 82 games in the regular season and he’ll continue to play in many more as long as he’s got a spot on San Jose’s special teams– most notably, at times, killing penalties.

Then there’s pending-RFA blueliner Dylan DeMelo.

The 25-year-old’s role on the Sharks defense increased this season as Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin— though better than average combined– continued to age.

DeMelo had 20 assists in 63 games played this season. He can move the puck and shutdown the opponent on any given night. He’s also in the sweet-spot for a defenseman in their prime.

Finally, the Sharks are set in net with Martin Jones, 28, under contract through the 2023-24 season at a $5.750 million cap hit as their starter and Aaron Dell, 29, on a fresh two-year extension at $1.900 million per year as the backup.

Seriously though, Jones is perhaps the best goaltender– if not one of the best– in franchise history and he’s signed at an affordable cap hit for a starting goaltender of his caliber.

Look, we love Evgeni Nabokov as much as the next guy, but Jones carries the promise of potentially bringing the franchise its first Cup on his current contract and he’s not even being paid $6.000 million or more like other elite goaltenders in this league.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Brandon Mashinter (UFA)

Golden Knights defeat Sharks 5-3 in Game 5, can clinch spot in WCF on Sunday

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The Vegas Golden Knights are one win away from their first Western Conference Finals appearance. Is it worth mentioning that it’s only their inaugural season/postseason? Asking for a friend.

Vegas topped the San Jose Sharks, 5-3, on home ice in Game 5 on Friday, scoring four unanswered goals before the Sharks almost forced a comeback at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights now have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves on 30 shots against for a .900 save percentage in the win for Vegas, while San Jose’s Martin Jones stopped 27 shots on 31 shots faced for an .871 SV% in 48:33 time on ice before being replaced by Sharks backup goaltender, Aaron Dell.

Dell went on to stop all seven shots he faced for a 1.000 SV% in his relief appearance that lasted for 10:24 TOI.

James Neal (3) opened scoring in the closing seconds of the first period, collecting a garbage goal by pouncing on a rebound and putting the puck in the open twine behind Jones. Shea Theodore (3) and David Perron (5) notched the assists on Neal’s goal at 19:57 of the first period to make it, 1-0, Golden Knights.

Vegas had a 15-7 advantage in shots on goal after one period.

Colin Miller took the game’s first penalty, as the Golden Knights defender was called for holding San Jose’s Chris Tierney at 2:07 of the second period. The Sharks did not convert on the ensuing power play.

San Jose’s Tomas Hertl shortly followed up with an interference minor against Miller a couple minutes later.

About a half-a-minute later, Alex Tuch (3) found the back of the net on a power play goal assisted by Reilly Smith (9) and Jonathan Marchessault (7) at 4:52 of the second period. Tuch’s goal put the Golden Knights up, 2-0.

Erik Haula (3) added a goal of his own about four minutes later, making it, 3-0, Vegas. Perron (6) and Ryan Carpenter (2) amassed the assists on Haula’s goal at 8:59 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, Justin Braun was guilty of tripping Tuch and was subsequently sent to the penalty box. Vegas did not convert on the power play and play continued rather tamely until Joe Pavelski roughed up Marchessault and took a trip to the sin bin for roughing at 16:40 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Golden Knights led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 28-17, in shots on goal.

Theodore opened the final frame with a cross checking penalty against Hertl 84 seconds into the third period. A few minutes later, Theodore and Hertl got into it again, this time with Theodore delivering a swift slash to Hertl, leading to another Sharks power play at 4:11 of the third period.

San Jose did not convert on either player advantage opportunity.

Almost midway through the third, Tuch (4) scored his second goal of the night, giving the Golden Knights a run of four unanswered goals to lead, 4-0, at 8:36 of the third. Cody Eakin (1) and Oscar Lindberg (1) notched their first assists of the postseason on the goal.

As a result of the mountainous lead for Vegas, Peter DeBoer replaced his starting goaltender, Jones, with backup, Aaron Dell.

Less than a minute later, Neal slashed Sharks fourth line center, Eric Fehr. San Jose converted on the ensuing power play 29 seconds later, as Kevin Labanc (1) notched his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Logan Couture (6) and Hertl (3) picked up the assists as the Sharks finally got on the scoreboard and trailed by three goals with over half a period left in regulation.

Nearly two minutes later, Hertl (6) fired the puck past Fleury to bring the Sharks within two goals at 11:44 of the third period. Mikkel Boedker (5) and Couture (7) notched the assists and San Jose trailed, 4-2.

Four minutes later, Boedker (1) scored his first goal of the postseason to bring the Sharks within one and put Golden Knights fans on edge at their own arena.

Couture (8) capitalized his third assist of the night on Boedker’s goal at 15:44.

With about two minutes remaining in the game, DeBoer pulled Dell for an extra skater. The Sharks were not able to complete the comeback as Marchessault (3) fired one into the empty net at 18:39 of the third period to seal the deal for the Golden Knights, 5-3.

Tensions escalated in the final minute as the undisciplined Sharks continued to fall apart late in the game. Marc-Edouard Vlasic slashed Eakin, then added an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty next to his name on the official event sheet, yielding a four-minute power play to Vegas.

Almost 20 seconds later, Golden Knights defender, Deryk Engelland, and San Jose blueliner, Brenden Dillon, got into it and were served matching misconducts that led to a 12 second head start on hitting the showers before their teammates.

At the final horn, Vegas had defeated San Jose, 5-3, on the scoreboard and finished the night leading in shots on goal (39-30), blocked shots (24-18), hits (53-35), giveaways (15-7) and faceoff win percentage (51-49). Both teams finished the night 1/4 on the power play.

The Golden Knights can eliminate the Sharks on the road at SAP Center on Sunday night in Game 6 and advance to their first Western Conference Final (conveniently also in their inaugural season). Puck drop is expected to occur a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and United States viewers looking to tune in can do so on NBCSN. Meanwhile, Canadians can set their TVs to CBC, SN or TVAS.

Golden Knights take bite out of Sharks, 7-0, in Game 1

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Seven different goal scorers and yet another Marc-Andre Fleury shutout powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 7-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on home ice Thursday night in Game 1 of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

The T-Mobile Arena crowd was delighted to Fleury’s third shutout of the 2018 postseason as the Vegas goaltender turned aside all 33 shots faced for the win. San Jose’s Martin Jones made eight saves on 13 shots against for a .615 save percentage in 23:26 time on ice before being replaced by backup, Aaron Dell, in the loss.

Dell made 19 saves on 21 shots against for a .905 SV% in 36:18 TOI.

San Jose gave up four goals to the Anaheim Ducks over the course of their entire First Round series (four games). The Golden Knights scored four goals on the Sharks in the first 12 minutes of Game 1 in the Second Round.

Jonathan Marchessault took a high-stick from Tomas Hertl and Vegas went on the power play 63 seconds into the game. While the Golden Knights didn’t convert on the man advantage, they took complete control of the game’s momentum fast and early.

Brayden McNabb was responsible for the series clinching goal in Los Angeles against the Kings and the Vegas defender was responsible for firing the first shot on goal that would eventually end up in the twine in the Second Round.

Cody Eakin (2) tipped in McNabb’s shot from the point to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead at 4:31 of the 1st period. McNabb (1) and David Perron (2) notched the assists on the goal.

The fans at T-Mobile Arena didn’t get to sit back down for long after Eakin’s goal as the Golden Knights struck again 26 seconds later on a goal from Erik Haula (2).

Alex Tuch rushed in the offensive zone and dropped a pass back to Haula who got a quick release past Jones on the far side to make it 2-0 Golden Knights at 4:57. Tuch (2) and James Neal (2) were credited with the assists on Haula’s goal.

Having created their own 3-on-2 in the offensive zone thanks to good, quick, short passes, Marchessault (1) fired one past Jones to give Vegas a three-goal lead, 3-0, at 6:02 of the first period. That’s three goals in a span of 1:31, mind you. Reilly Smith (4) picked up the only assist on Marchessault’s first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Sharks earned their first power play of the night after Tuch got a stick up high on San Jose blueliner, Justin Braun. They did not convert on the man advantage.

Kevin Labanc was sent to the sin bin at 9:26 of the first period for hooking Tuch. Brent Burns shortly followed Labanc’s ruts to the penalty box with a minor penalty of his own for delay of game after he sent the puck clear over the glass at 10:14.

San Jose killed off Labanc’s penalty, but was quickly thwarted of attempting to kill off the remainder of Burns’s minor as Tuch (2) broke free of the Sharks defense and shot one past Jones’s blocker to give the Golden Knights the 4-0 lead on the power play.

William Karlsson (2) and Smith (5) had the primary and secondary assists on Tuch’s power play goal at 11:43.

Smith received a minor penalty for goaltender interference at 12:09 of the first period and the Sharks went on their first 5-on-3 man advantage at 13:29 when former Shark turned Golden Knight via waivers this season, Ryan Carpenter, tripped up Burns.

San Jose did not score on the ensuing power play.

Through one period, the Golden Knights led, 4-0. Meanwhile, San Jose led in shots on goal, 17-9. Vegas led in blocked shots (15-2), hits (22-13) and giveaways (5-2). The Sharks were 0/3 and the Golden Knights were 1/3 on the power play after 20 minutes of play.

Shea Theodore (2) opened scoring in the second period after receiving a cross ice pass from Smith and redirecting the puck past Jones. Smith (6) and Marchessault (3) had the assists at 3:28 of the second period.

As a result of Vegas’s newfound, 5-0, lead, Peter DeBoer replaced his goaltender, Martin Jones, with San Jose’s backup goalie, Aaron Dell. The relief appearance was Dell’s Stanley Cup Playoffs career debut.

Jon Merrill caught Logan Couture with a high-stick and the Golden Knights were shorthanded at 6:10. The Sharks did not score on the ensuing power play.

Eric Fehr caught Theodore with a high-stick of his own about a couple of minutes later and Vegas was not able to convert on the ensuing man advantage.

Late in the second period, Timo Meier (tripping) and Chris Tierney (holding) were penalized about four minutes apart. The Golden Knights did not score on either power play, despite James Neal having thought he scored— the goal was immediately waved off and reviewed, as it appeared Neal had punched the puck into the net with his hand.

As such, the call on the ice was not reversed.

Vegas went into the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, 5-0, and trailing in shots on goal, 25-24. The Golden Knights led in blocked shots (18-11), hits (36-23) and takeaways (8-4) after 40 minutes of play. San Jose was 0/4 on the power play and Vegas was 1/6.

Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski, was guilty of interfering with McNabb 68 seconds into the third period and the Golden Knights found themselves going on the power play for the seventh time on the night.

Just as quick as Pavelski was released from the box, the San Jose forward found himself going back to the box as he let the best of him go undisciplined— slashing Vegas defender, Nate Schmidt at 3:25 of the third period.

Evander Kane tangled with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after the whistle and delivered a swift cross check to the Vegas forward’s face resulting in a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for Kane that will undoubtedly result in at least a hearing with the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety (given the precedent set by Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey cross checking Minnesota’s Eric Staal in the head in the First Round).

It didn’t take long for Vegas to capitalize on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage as Colin Miller (1) shot a one-timer past Dell to give the Golden Knights a 6-0 lead.

Karlsson (4) and Marchessault (4) had the assists on the goal at 4:32 of the third period and the Golden Knights’s power play continued.

At the goal line from just to the side of the net, Neal (2) swung around in front of the goal and beat Dell from point blank to give Vegas yet another power play goal and increase the lead, 7-0.

Perron (3) and Haula (1) notched the assists on the point-after-touchdown goal at 8:09 of the third period.

The Golden Knights had matched their entire offensive output against the Los Angeles Kings in the First Round in less than 60 minutes against San Jose.

At the final horn, Vegas won, 7-0, and grabbed the 1-0 series lead in what was Fleury’s 13th career postseason shutout.

The Golden Knights led the final shots on goal total, 34-33, as well as blocked shots (26-13), hits (48-33), giveaways (10-8) and faceoff win percentage (52-48). San Jose went 0/5 on the power play and Vegas went 3/10 on the night.

Game 2 is Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, where the home team, Golden Knights, look to go up, 2-0, in the series. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC. Fans in Canada can follow along on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Sharks sweep Ducks with 2-1 win in Game 4

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For just the second time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks have swept a playoff series. The Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, in Game 4 at SAP Center and advanced to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the win.

Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning goal in the third period to give the Sharks their first postseason series sweep since they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

San Jose goaltender, Martin Jones, stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced for a .968 save percentage in the win. Meanwhile, John Gibson had 22 saves on 24 shots on goal for a .917 SV% in the loss.

Marcus Sorensen (3) continued his incredible postseason run so far and got the home crowd roaring early in the first period after he followed up on his own rebound and beat Gibson to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. Brent Burns (1) and Melker Karlsson (3) had the assists on Sorensen’s goal at 5:43 of the first period.

Ducks blueliner, Hampus Lindholm, took the game’s first penalty when he tripped Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi late in the period. San Jose was not able to convert on the ensuing power play.

After 20 minutes, the Sharks led the Ducks 1-0 on the scoreboard. San Jose also led in hits (13-6) and takeaways (6-3), while Anaheim led in shots on goal (10-9), blocked shots (10-2) and faceoff win percentage (64-36).

The second period brought a shift in momentum as Anaheim got their first power play of the night after Joe Pavelski was guilty of tripping Marcus Pettersson a little past the seven-minute mark of the period.

Though they were not able to convert on the man advantage, the Ducks kept the pressure going until Nick Ritchie slashed Kevin Labanc and forced Anaheim to go on the penalty kill.

A few minutes later, Timo Meier, got his stick up in the face of Rickard Rakell and the Ducks went back on the power play. San Jose killed it off and promptly took the game’s next penalty with a minute remaining in the second period.

Eric Fehr took the skate of shame to the sin bin for hooking Ducks defender, Josh Manson.

As time was ticking down, Ryan Getzlaf fired a shot on goal with less than a second remaining in the period. The Ducks celebrated, but after a quick review, it was confirmed that the clock read “0.0” as the puck went past Jones.

Anaheim outshot San Jose, 14-6, in the second period. The Ducks also led in blocked shots (12-11) and faceoff win% (54-46) through 40 minutes of play. San Jose had a slight advantage in hits (20-19) and the lead on the scoreboard, 1-0. Neither team was successful on the power play through two periods (with the Ducks having gone 0/3 and Sharks, 0/2).

With a minute remaining on Fehr’s penalty and a fresh sheet of ice thanks to the second intermission, the Ducks attacked the Sharks early in the third period with ferocity.

Just 27 seconds in the period, Getzlaf entered the zone on a three-on-two breakout and threw the puck to Rakell who fired a shot past Jones. Anaheim thought they had tied the game on the power play, but Sharks head coach, Peter DeBoer, challenged the call on the ice on the basis that the Ducks entered the zone offside.

After review, it was determined that Getzlaf entered the zone offside and the call on the ice was reversed. No goal, still 1-0 San Jose.

Evander Kane took a stick up high from Brandon Montour a couple of minutes later and the Sharks were given their third power play of the night. Anaheim’s defense stepped their game up killed off the penalty, keeping San Jose scoreless on the man advantage. The Sharks would finish the night 0/3 on the power play.

Melker Karlsson then caught Andy Welinski with a high-stick of his own while losing his balance and was sent to serve a two-minute minor penalty. The Ducks were unable to put one past Jones on the power play, but they were getting some quality chances and building momentum for the inevitable.

Jakob Silfverberg sent a quick pass to Ryan Kesler who was awaiting behind the goal line. Kesler received the pass and quickly threw the puck to Andrew Cogliano (1) who was crashing the net and fired a quick redirection shot point blank on Jones to tie the game, 1-1.

Kesler (2) and Silfverberg (1) were credited with the assists on Cogliano’s first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:53 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Getzlaf went to work on getting the puck out of his own zone with a lackadaisical clearing attempt around the boards. Instead of working the puck into the neutral zone and forcing San Jose’s attack to retreat and get back onside, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to scoop up the loose puck and throw a shot on goal.

It was then that Tomas Hertl (3) was able to redirect Vlasic’s shot through Gibson’s five-hole and put the Sharks back on top, 2-1. Vlasic (2) picked up his second assist of the series on Hertl’s goal.

The quick response from the Sharks was enough to motivate the home team that was already feeding off of the energy inside SAP Center.

Gibson vacated his net for an extra skater with less than two minute to go in regulation, but even after Randy Carlyle called a timeout with 1:01 left on the clock after a stoppage in play, the Ducks were not able to tie the game and force an overtime.

San Jose had completed the sweep at the sound of the final horn.

The Sharks had won Game 4 by a score of 2-1 and finished the night leading in hits (28-27). Anaheim finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-24) and 0/4 on the power play.

For the first time in 19 years, the Anaheim Ducks were swept in a playoff series.

Having already witnessed the Vegas Golden Knights’s 1-0 victory in Game 4 against Los Angeles on Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks know exactly who they’ll be facing in the Second Round. Vegas and San Jose will meet for the first time in the postseason at T-Mobile Arena for Games 1 and 2 as the Golden Knights will continue to have home ice in the next round.

December 23 – Day 80 – Californian Christmas contest

Pack your hockey watching in today, because the NHL goes on hiatus until Wednesday. What are we supposed to do with our lives?

But don’t be alarmed, the league scheduler didn’t forget to tuck a present under your tree: it’s a loaded schedule today, as every team except the Flames are in action.

The action gets an early start today, as both Detroit at Boston (SN) and Winnipeg at the New York Islanders drop the puck at 1 p.m. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it eight contests (Montréal at Edmonton [SN/TVAS], Minnesota at Tampa Bay, Ottawa at Florida [CITY/SN360], Chicago at New Jersey, Toronto at the New York Rangers [CBC/NHLN], Anaheim at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Carolina and Philadelphia at Columbus), while three more (Washington at Vegas, Colorado at Arizona and Nashville at Dallas) wait until 8 p.m. to get underway. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – St. Louis at Vancouver (CBC/SN) and Los Angeles at San Jose – drop the puck at 10 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.

What a slate of games! Here’s a few that stuck out to me before the season even got started…

  • Detroit at Boston: The first of two Original Six matchups today, though this one pales in comparison to the other.
  • Toronto at New York: If Original Six games are your scene, you need to be in Manhattan.
  • Los Angeles at San Jose: The Battle of California rages on this evening in The Tank.

If only we hadn’t featured the Maple Leafs and Rangers already this week, I would totally be making the trip to Madison Square Garden for what should be an excellent game. But since we did, I have my eye on the activity in the Golden State this evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit quite like a nasty intrastate rivalry.

There are few teams nastier than the 22-10-4 Kings, who have thrown 901 hits already this season – the second-most in the league behind Edmonton’s 947 blows. That effort has been led by Dustin Brown, who has delivered 101 of those 901 hits (11.2 percent), the 11th-most in the NHL.

That physical nature has obviously been a major component of Head Coach John Stevens‘ game plan, and that plan has worked to a T considering the Kings allow a league-best 2.31 goals against-per-game to earn first place in the Western Conference.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have 17-10-1 G Jonathan Quick in net stopping pucks. In his seven December starts, he’s posted a .926 save percentage and 2.12 GAA to improve his season numbers to .928 and 2.23. His performance on the season puts him among the top-10 goalies regardless of how much or little time they’ve spent in the crease (76 in all), and third-best among the 39 netminders with at least 11 starts.

To make matters even tougher on the Sharks, Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the conference right now, as it has earned a 7-2-1 record over its last 10 games – an effort matched only by second-place Vegas.

Speaking of those Sharks, they’ve earned an 18-11-4 record that is good enough for third place in the Pacific Division. When they’ve found success this season, the Sharks have played some of the bets defense in the NHL, allowing only 2.52 goals against-per-game.

While the Kings have a great defense built on violence and a stellar goaltender, San Jose employs a more traditional defensive plan based on limiting shots on 11-8-3 G Martin Jones‘ net. Jones and backup 7-3-1 G Aaron Dell see an average of only 29.94 shots against per game, the fourth-fewest in the league.

Defensemen Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (both with 1.9 blocks per game), Brent Burns (team-leading 37 takeaways) and Brenden Dillon (2.75 hits per game) have been the major leaders in that defensive effort, but a total of seven players average at least 1.5 hits, and another group of nine block at least one shot per game. This entire team has bought into Head Coach Peter DeBoer, and that effort has kept them afloat in the division despite averaging only 2.79 goals per game, the second-worst among the 16 teams currently in playoff position.

These teams have already met twice this season, and both have won one game on the road. Los Angeles won the first game at The Tank 4-1 back in October, while the Sharks exacted revenge in mid-November to win 2-1 at the Staples Center.

Given a home team has yet to defend their arena in this series, I’d be led to believe the Kings will earn two points this evening. Throw on the fact that they statistically play better on both ends of the rink, and I’d say they’re a lock.


Though the Calgary Flames staged a two-goal comeback attempt in the third period, the Montréal Canadiens held on to win yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at the Scotiabank Saddledome 3-2.

The Habs employed a strong and steady attack throughout this contest, as they managed a goal per period to slowly wear down the Flames. Scoring his first NHL goal since February 20, 2016, First Star C Byron Froese (D Jordie Benn and F Alex Galchenyuk) provided Montréal its first period goal on a deflected shot with 9:15 remaining in the frame.

The second period’s goal belonged to none other than LW Nicolas Deslauriers (Froese and W Daniel Carr). He buried his wrist shot behind G Mike Smith at the 8:44 mark of the period to give the Canadiens a 2-0 advantage.

Though it was only an extra insurance goal at the time, Third Star RW Brendan Gallagher (LW Artturi Lehkonen and C Tomas Plekanec) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with a wrister at the 3:10 mark of the third period. After collecting the puck in the trapezoid, Lehkonen began wrapping around the backside of Smith’s net from his right to left. However, instead of completing his play with a shot on goal, he elected to pass to Gallagher through the crease, who needed two shots to get the puck past Smith and into the twine.

But this game was far from over at that point. Calgary finally got on the board after 49:42 of action courtesy of a W Micheal Ferland (F Michael Frolik and C Sean Monahan) wrister.

As more minutes ticked off the clock, hope began to dwindle once again among the C of Red, but a power play wrister from LW Matthew Tkachuk (C Mikael Backlund and LW Johnny Gaudreau) with 1:53 remaining in regulation reignited the Flames faithful. However, that comeback would fall just short, as Calgary could not level the game even with Smith pulled for an extra attacker.

G Carey Price earned the victory after saving 21-of-23 shots faced (.913 save percentage), leaving the loss to Smith, who saved 32-of-35 (.914).

The Canadiens’ win away from the Bell Centre is a rare one for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day of late. Winning only their second in eight days, the roadies now trail the 45-26-9 hosts by only 19 points.

December 14 – Day 71 – No sushi here

It’s another Thursday in the NHL packed with action, as all but seven teams will be lacing them up this evening.

Like they do most nights, the festivities find their start at 7 p.m. with the puck drop of three games (Washington at Boston [SN360], Buffalo at Philadelphia and the New York Islanders at Columbus), followed half an hour later by New Jersey at Montréal (RDS/TSN2). Three more puck drops (Anaheim at St. Louis, Toronto at Minnesota and Chicago at Winnipeg) are scheduled for 8 p.m., while a four-pack (Florida at Colorado, San Jose at Calgary, Nashville at Edmonton [TVAS] and Tampa Bay at Arizona) waits until 9 p.m. to get underway. Finally, Pittsburgh makes its first-ever visit to Vegas (NHLN/SN/SN360) at 10 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.

For those that know me, or at least keep track of this column, you probably know which two teams I call my own (I know, I’m cheating by having two. That’s what you get when your dad pulls for a team far from where you live.). So, you’re probably guessing I’m leaning towards the Penguins-Golden Knights game to see the reunion of G Marc-Andre Fleury and his old Pens pals.

However, I’m far more interested in Fleury’s return to the Steel City when he gets greeted by his former home fans and receives his 2017 Stanley Cup ring (hint: look forward to my February 6 column).

In the meantime, let’s head to southern Alberta where there’s an important Pacific Division game taking place.

 

Tell me if you’ve read this as recently as yesterday’s column: these two teams are fortunate they play in the division they do, or their playoff hopes could already be in the trash.

While the Pacific Division has been full of surprises this season (the dominance of the Kings, the Golden Knights being way better than an expansion team should and the Oilers’ fall from incredible to dumpster fire), the middle of the pack has been nothing more than… well, average.

Take for example tonight’s visitors, the 16-10-3 Sharks. San Jose is average in a very special way, because it pairs one of the best defenses in the game with an offense that can’t seem to figure out why there’s goals at both ends of the rink.

Let’s start with the good: led by the impressive efforts of defensemen Justin Braun (team-leading 1.96 blocks per game), Brent Burns (33 takeaways) and Brenden Dillon (2.85 hits per game), the Sharks allow an average of only 29.13 shots to reach 5-3-1 G Aaron Dell – tonight’s probable starter, per Curtis Pashelka of Bay Area News Group due to the Sharks traveling to Vancouver for a game tomorrow night.

Though his eight starts and 11 appearances are a fairly small sample size at this point of the season, Dell has technically outperformed 11-7-2 G Martin Jones so far, posting a superior .939 save percentage and 1.72 GAA. In fact, of the 50 goaltenders in the league with at least eight starts, Dell has been the class of the NHL and led both statistical categories.

Of course, he’s also faced the fourth-fewest shots of any of those netminders, so maybe that’s a better reflection of his defense’s effort. Either way, the Sharks have allowed only 2.34 goals against per game this season, the second fewest in the league.

But with all that good comes an equal share of bad; specifically, an offense that averages only 2.68 goals per game, the seventh-fewest in the league. I wrote about why I think the Sharks’ attack isn’t working here (hint: looking at you, Burns), but one player that doesn’t deserve a nightly tongue lashing from Head Coach Peter DeBoer is F Logan Couture. He’s been a solid player this season on an unspectacular offense, posting 15-10-25 totals that puts even the likes of C Jack Eichel, W James Neal and F T.J. Oshie behind him on the league leader board.

The longer Burns and that offense struggles, the more opportunities it gives teams like the 16-12-3 Flames to climb into playoff position. Calgary currently occupies fourth place in the Pacific Division, but only 10th in the Western Conference, which means it is not even next in line for the second wild card.

That puts a big emphasis on these division games, and there’s no time like the present to play one for these Flames. They may have only won two of their last four games, but they’re riding a four-game point streak that includes three road contests, including visits to the Air Canada Centre and Bell Centre.

Over this decent run, 13-9-3 G Mike Smith has buckled down and put on some solid performances in the crease. Starting three of the four games, he’s posted a .947 save percentage and 1.26 GAA to go 1-0-2 and improve his season numbers to a .919 save percentage and 2.6 GAA.

Due to Calgary’s defense allowing an average of 31.8 shots per game (15th-most in the league), Smith needs to be on his game most nights to give his team a chance to win. That’s especially true considering the Flames’ offense averages only 2.8 goals per game – the 11th-fewest in the NHL – even though LW Johnny Gaudreau (12-26-38 points) and C Sean Monahan (17-13-30) have been putting on a show this season.

The Flames’ struggle this year had been depth scoring, but its no surprise that’s exactly what they’ve gotten during this little run they’re on. 14 different players have found the scorecard in the past four games, including Travis Hamonic (1-3-4 season totals) and Brett Kulak (0-4-4), defensemen not usually known for their offensive contributions. If this trend can continue, maybe – just maybe – Calgary can shape up into a decent team.

If nothing else can be said about the bottom five teams in the Pacific Division, it will certainly make for an exciting trade deadline and playoff push this March if all these teams are fighting for third place. We may not know who will square off in Vegas’ playoff debut until the last day of the regular season.

As for who will get two points closer to that goal this evening, I’m leaning towards the Flames. Smith has been playing spectacularly this season and should be able to quell the Sharks’ anemic offense, and I think Calgary’s depth can keep up its scoring streak.


Though they had to pull Second Star of the Game G Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker just to force overtime, the Boston Bruins were able to get past the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The first goal of this contest wasn’t struck until the 9:15 mark of the second period. That’s when F Tomas Tatar (D Niklas Kronwall and F Henrik Zetterberg) buried a power play wrist shot to give the Wings a 1-0 lead that would last into the second intermission.

Thanks to F Noel Acciari‘s (F Tim Schaller) second goal of the season, the Bruins leveled the game at the 3:02 mark of the third period, but Detroit once again took the lead 8:32 later on a special teams goal. Third Star F Dylan Larkin (F Darren Helm and D Trevor Daley) took advantage of RW David Pastrnak‘s indecisiveness to score a breakaway shorthanded backhanded shot. Pastrnak (First Star LW Brad Marchand and D Torey Krug) was provided the opportunity to redeem himself though, and he leveled the game at two-all with 86 seconds remaining in regulation with Rask pulled for the extra attacker.

Even though the Bruins never led in this game, Marchand (Krug) gave the Bruins their 15th win of the season with what our in-house Bruins expert @nlanciani53 is calling nothing more than “a typical Marchand breakaway backhander.”

We’ll take his word at it.

Rask earned the victory after saving 31-of-33 shots faced (.939 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to G Jimmy Howard, who saved 29-of-32 (.906).

Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have now won two-straight contests. As such, they’ve pulled within 14 points of the 39-23-9 hosts.

November 16 – Day 44 – Defense is a Boughner

Fantasy hockey players, consider this your alert: with a dozen games on the schedule, there’s tons of points to be earned tonight!

Like they do most nights, the festivities begin at 7 p.m. when two games (New Jersey at Toronto and Carolina at the New York Islanders), followed half an hour later by three more (Arizona at Montréal [RDS/TSN2], Pittsburgh at Ottawa [RDS2] and Dallas at Tampa Bay). 8 p.m. marks the start of two contests (Nashville at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Winnipeg) with another pair (Washington at Colorado and St. Louis at Edmonton) waiting an hour before getting underway. Vegas at Vancouver gets green-lit at 10 p.m. and tonight’s nightcaps – Boston at Los Angeles (SN) and Florida at San Jose – close things out half an hour later. All times Eastern.

There’s quite a few games that have caught my eye this evening. That list includes:

  • Pittsburgh at Ottawa: It’s the first of three rematches of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Dallas at Tampa Bay: Welcome home G Ben Bishop; welcome home.
  • Vegas at Vancouver: D Luca Sbisa called British Columbia home for three seasons, but he’s traded his Vancouver digs for a pad in Sin City.
  • Florida at San Jose: For the last two years, Bob Boughner was an assistant coach for Head Coach Peter DeBoer in San Jose. Tonight, he’ll square off against him as the 15th head coach in Panthers history.

It’s a tough selection among those four, but I have a great way to determine which game is the DtFR Game of the Day: we’ve featured 30 of 31 NHL teams in the series so far, but the one club that escapes us is the Panthers. It’s time to resolve that today.

 

I don’t think you really understand how happy it makes me each year to say we’ve featured every club at least once in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Of course, the Panthers haven’t exactly done themselves any favors with 14 points in the standings…

Regardless of Florida’s current situation, there’s no doubt of Boughner’s ability as a coach. He’s been a head man before, even if his experience wasn’t in the NHL. For eight total seasons (two four-year terms) he was the skipper his hometown OHL team, the Windsor Spitfires. In particular, his first stint with the club was certainly noteworthy. After missing the playoffs in 2006-’07, his first season coaching the organization, he built the Spitfires into a team capable of winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and ’10.

Of course, what can you expect from a team that featured the likes of D Ryan Ellis, D Cam Fowler, G Philipp Grubauer, F Taylor Hall, F Adam Henrique, RW Zack Kassian and F Austin Watson?

Winning two CHL championships is a good way to get noticed by the big kids in the hockey business, and Boughner was hired as an assistant coach to Scott Arniel with the Blue Jackets in 2010-’11 before returning to Windsor a year later.

His second four-year stint with the Spitfires was nowhere near as good as his first (given, winning back-to-back titles is a tough act to replicate), as he only qualified Windsor for the OHL playoffs two times – both times falling in the first round.

Following 2014-’15’s failure to reach the postseason, Boughner returned to the NHL as an assistant coach for DeBoer in San Jose, working primarily with D Brent Burns and the defense. The Sharks found much success in Boughner’s two years with the club, as they qualified for their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals in 2016.

And that brings us to present day. Since being hired as the Panthers head coach on June 12, he’s led the club to a not-so-great 6-9-2 record that – as I indicated in my season preview – I blame almost entirely on General Manager Dale Tallon.

As the saying goes, “If it walks like a duck, flies like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” Well, these Panthers are definitely no Anaheim Ducks. Even though I’m sure Boughner – a former defenseman with 10 seasons of NHL experience – is telling his blueliners all his tips and tricks, Florida is the worst defense in the NHL as measured by shots against-per-game, as their 36.6 is 1.1 more than second-worst New Jersey.

Given the obnoxious number of shots it allows, perhaps it’s no surprise Florida has registered the sixth-fewest blocks so far this season. I usually hold D Aaron Ekblad in high esteem, but as one of, if not the best defenseman on this team, his 1.5 blocks-per-game are definitely not cutting it.

Even D Andy Greene, who plays for a nominally better defense in Jersey, has managed 2.1 blocks-per-game this year. Good leaders lead by example, and Ekblad needs to do that if he wants any chance of a positive future for this Panthers organization – especially since he’s locked in with this team until the end of the 2024-’25 season.

Maybe the Panthers are a more violent team; maybe that’s how they are trying to play defense. Guess again, because Florida’s 320 hits are fifth-fewest in the NHL.

Making matters worse, F Derek MacKenzie, whose 37 hits lead the team, is currently listed as day-to-day and it is uncertain if he’ll be able to return to the ice for the first time since getting injured early in Saturday’s game against the Devils. If he’s not ready to play and D Alex Petrovic is still banished to the press box with his team-leading three hits-per-game, F Micheal Haley and his 1.8 hits-per-game would take over as the Panthers’ primary muscle.

What all of this means is 3-3-1 G Roberto Luongo should probably be commended for his .919 save percentage and 3.09 GAA. He’s doing the best he can to provide the league’s (t)ninth-best offense a chance every night he takes to the crease.

Last thing about the Panthers before we talk Sharks real quick: that offense, though. Jonathan Huberdeau (7-14-21 totals) and Vincent Trocheck (8-10-18) are absolute studs, as they’ve racked up all those points on separate lines. Snoozing on Florida’s offense is a recipe for disaster, and G Martin Jones would be wise to treat every attack from the top-two lines just like he would against the other team in the Sunshine State.

That’s actually as good a transition as any, because 10-6-0 San Jose makes a living out of rejecting even the best of offenses, allowing a league-leading 2.25 goals against-per-game.

Perhaps Boughner can use the Sharks’ defense – the same defense he helped build – as a teaching tool for his club, because there’s few blue lines in the league better than San Jose’s. Though 8-4-0 Jones has been solid with his .925 save percentage, it’s the fact that D Justin Braun (2.4 blocks-per-game), D Brenden Dillon (3.1 hits-per-game) and co. have allowed only 28.8 shots against-per-game that has earned the Sharks third place in the Pacific Division.

In my opinion, one of the best indicators of a really good defense is finding success with a man in the penalty box. The Sharks pass that test with flying colors (I can only assume those colors are teal and orange), as their 88.5 percent kill rate is second-best in the NHL. Considering the Panthers’ power play is (t)12th-worst in the league, they shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping those numbers up tonight.

Florida’s offense squares up rather nicely with San Jose’s defense, and the Sharks’ sixth-worst attack might find it in them to struggle against the Panthers’ defense. If that proves to be the case, I give the edge to San Jose since it’s playing at home and it has Jones at its disposal.


With a third period hat trick by First Star of the Game F Artem Anisimov, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the New York Rangers 6-3 at the United Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Anisimov’s (F Patrick Kane and Second Star F Nick Schmaltz) first goal of the game wasn’t struck until the 1:07 mark of the third period, leaving him only 18:53 to complete his performance. After F John Hayden (D Cody Franson and D Duncan Keith) set the score at 3-1 46 seconds after Anisimov’s first goal, the Russian struck again (Franson and Schmaltz) at the 5:14 mark with a power play wrist shot.

Since his second goal proved to be the game-winner, I suppose we’ll let it be the most important of Anisimov’s night, but his tip-in with 3:48 remaining in regulation (Schmaltz and RW Richard Panik) to send headgear flying has to earn silver. That tally set the score at 5-3 and was followed 2:18 later by C Jonathan Toews‘ (Panik and D Brent Seabrook) fifth marker of the season to set the 6-3 final on an empty net.

Making tonight’s win even sweeter for the Hawks, it technically counts as a come-from-behind victory due to C Mika Zibanejad‘s (F Chris Kreider and W Pavel Buchnevich) wrister 9:58 into the first period. He gave the Rangers a one-goal advantage that lasted 29:10 before Third Star W Alex DeBrincat (Panik and Keith) sneaked a wrister past G Henrik Lundqvist with 52 seconds remaining in the second period to level the game.

The Blueshirts also put up a strong fight in the middle of the final frame, as they scored two goals between Anisimov’s second and third. F Kevin Hayes (W Mats Zuccarello and W Rick Nash) takes credit for the first at the 7:08 mark with a wrister, followed 4:48 later by an unassisted Nash backhanded shot to set the score at 4-3 in favor of Chicago. Momentum was certainly on New York’s side at that moment, but the fact that the Hawks’ defense allowed only nine shots on goal in both the second and third periods put a halt to that positive energy rather quickly.

G Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 25-of-28 shots faced (.893 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lundqvist, who saved 30-of-34 (.882). King Henrik was lifted after Anisimov’s second goal in favor of G Ondrej Pavelec, who completed the game saving seven-of-eight (.875) for no decision.

Not only is this the second-straight 6-3 score in the DtFR Game of the Day series, but it’s also the third-straight victory by the now 23-16-5 home teams who now have a six-point advantage over the roadies.