Tag Archives: Pirri

New York Rangers 2017-’18 Season Preview

New York Rangers

48-28-6, 102 points, fourth in the Metropolitan Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Ottawa

Additions: D Anthony DeAngelo, C David Desharnais, G Ondrej Pavelec, D Kevin Shattenkirk

Subtractions: W Taylor Beck (signed with Yekaterinburg), D Adam Clendening (signed with ARI), D Dan Girardi (signed with TBL), G Magnus Hellberg (signed with Kunlun), F Marek Hrivik (signed with CGY), W Nicklas Jensen (signed with Jokerit), D Kevin Klein (signed with Zürcher), F Brandon Pirri (signed with Zürcher), G Antti Raanta (traded to ARI), C Derek Stepan (traded to ARI)

Offseason Analysis: Before we jump into any analysis, allow me to soothe the fears of any casual Rangers fans: few of the 10 subtractions listed above played the entirety of last season with the Rangers. In actuality, only four spots needed to be filled this offseason.

Then again, General Manager Jeff Gorton did buy out the back half of Girardi’s six-year, $5.5 million AAV contract (keeping at least $1.1 million on the books through the 2022-’23 season), so some of these gaps were self-inflicted.

That’s apparently the price a team had to pay to get its hands on two-way blueliner Shattenkirk, 2017’s most-courted free agent. Though he failed to help the Capitals escape their second-round curse, he brings with him undoubtable scoring abilities that will only strengthen 2016-‘17’s fourth-best offense.

But how valuable is a two-way defenseman really? To put things in perspective, nine of the top 10 and 12 of the top 14 teams in defensive points last season made the playoffs (the Islanders and Flyers missed the playoffs by only a combined eight points, by the way), and Nashville and Pittsburgh  – the Stanley Cup Finalists – were two of the top-three clubs in the statistic.

The Rangers were one of those top teams last year before adding Shattenkirk, the former St. Louis Blue that has posted at least 40 points every season of his career (except the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 campaign). Given he’s replacing Girardi – a player that has posted only .23 points-per-game for the past two years – in the lineup, the Blueshirts will see an immediate improvement along their blue line, at least in scoring.

But is adding Shattenkirk enough to win 35-year-old G Henrik Lundqvist his first Stanley Cup? That remains to be seen, as the signing could hurt just as much as it helps. One of Girardi’s strongpoints was keeping shots of his goaltender, as he registered 166 blocks and 10 more takeaways last season. In comparison, New York’s new piece managed only 95 shot rejections, but also 36 steals. If Shattenkirk cannot rein in his propensity for attacking the opposing net, Captain Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and the rest of the defensive corps will have to take a cab home after games due to sheer exhaustion.

Of course, that was not what Shattenkirk was hired to do… see the dilemma here?

Though the 2012 Vezina winner will forever be King Henrik, his age is not doing him any favors. Add in the fact that new backup Pavalec (.888 save percentage, 3.55 GAA in eight starts last season) is no Raanta (.922 save percentage, 2.26 GAA in 26 starts last season), and the pressure will be on New York’s defense to keep Lundqvist as fit, healthy and well-rested as possible to ensure he plays as much as possible.

Offseason Grade: C+

The Blueshirts live and die by their incredible, hopefully ageless netminder. Without Lundqvist, this season is a waste of time for the Rangers (no offense Pavalec) – no matter how much Shattenkirk scores. Should Lundqvist be unable to cope with the potential added work, Mats Zuccarello (15-44-59 totals) and co. will be under fire to score even more goals to keep the Rangers in contention. While exciting to watch, playing barnburner-type games can grow taxing on teams and will certainly not be a feasible strategy in the playoffs.

Just ask the 2015-’16 Stars.

March 26 – Day 158 – Mats point

There’s only one more day before you have to go back to work. Make it worth it.

I assume that doing so requires hockey, so you have five games to choose from. Today’s action starts at 12:30 p.m. with Minnesota at Detroit (NBC), followed by Dallas at New Jersey at 5 p.m. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings with it Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (NBCSN), followed an hour later by Vancouver at Winnipeg (SN). Finally, tonight’s nightcap drops the puck at 9 p.m. with the New York Rangers at AnaheimAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: If anything can spark a late playoff push for the Flyers, it’d be a victory in the Battle for the Keystone State.
  • New York at Anaheim: Seeing as Brandon Pirri only played nine regular season games with the Ducks last year, it’s hardly a momentous return. Yet, this contest promises to be the best of the day.

Since the FlyersPenguins rivalry’s zest is diminishing outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, let’s feature the Big Apple for the third-straight day.

 

Games between Eastern and Western Conference opponents are always weird this time of year. Sometimes both teams can be fighting for their playoff lives or scrapping for a better seed, while other teams are simply playing one of the remaining fixtures on their increasingly unimportant schedule.

Of course, the weirdest situation of all is the one we have tonight, when one club has little to nothing to gain from an inter-conference matchup since they are effectively locked into their playoff position, while the other is still fighting for the best of four spots available.

Tonight, the 46-25-4 Rangers own the role of the “little to gain, little to lose” character. They trail Pittsburgh by seven points for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and a dozen points separate them from the second wildcard.

This may be a weird metaphor, but I imagine New York as a retired elderly gentleman, sitting in a rocker in his screened-in porch. He does not care if it is hot and the bugs are out – he has a fan and the screen keeps the bugs away. He does not care if it rains – he will stay dry and appreciate the ambiance of the rain shower. He does as he wishes and prepares for the next thing he knows he has on his to-do list.

If that doesn’t give away that I live in the South, I don’t know what does.

For those wondering, the next thing for the Rangers to do is gel in anticipation of the playoffs. Of course, they’ve shown they can do that already this year – especially on offense, as their 235 goals is tied with Minnesota for the third-highest total in the NHL.

Mats Zuccarello has been on an absolute tear of late. If it weren’t for his pointless effort at New Jersey on Tuesday, the wing would be riding a seven-game point streak, including two games with two points. In fact, he’s been so impressive that he’s taken over New York‘s clubhouse points lead from J.T. Miller.

Of course, it would be unwise to ignore Michael Grabner. Though he hasn’t buried a goal since March 13, he still leads the squad with his 27 tallies. His lead has certainly slimmed during his dry spell, as he has only one more marker than Chris Kreider.

Much of the reason for Zuccarello’s surge has been his success on the power play. Since his hot streak has began, the Rangers‘ 29.4% power play ranks third-best in the NHL, and he’s been at the forefront of it all. The wing has earned four of his points with the man-advantage in this run, including two goals (both are the highest totals on the team during this stretch).

The one thing the Blueshirts have not been able to figure out all season has been their penalty kill. No matter what Alain Vigneault does, he cannot get his club to do any better than its 79.6% season kill rate – the eighth-worst in the league, and second-worst among clubs currently in playoff position.

Meanwhile, any result from tonight’s game can drastically effect 40-23-11 Anaheim‘s postseason. Currently, the Ducks are in a three-way tie with both Edmonton and San Jose atop the Pacific Division, and the Ducks win the games-played tiebreaker with their game-in-hand.

Since the Oilers and Sharks are both inactive this evening, that un-played contest takes place tonight and provides the opportunity to either take a true lead or drop the Anaheim to second place in the Pacific behind San Jose (the Ducks lead the season series against Edmonton 2-1-1, but have fewer regulation+overtime victories than the Sharks).

Defense is the name of the game on The Pond, as the Ducks have allowed only 179 goals against, which ties for third-fewest in the league. Usually, the crease has belonged to 23-16-8 John Gibson, but he’s been fighting a lower body injury for two weeks.

Instead, it’s presumed the Ducks will turn to 17-7-3 Jonathan Bernier, who currently has them riding a three-game winning streak. Since Gibson went down, Bernier has been in net for all of Anaheim‘s games and has allowed only nine goals against – tied for the fewest in the league in that time among the 14 goaltenders with six or more appearances. In addition, his .947 save percentage and 1.48 GAA over that stretch is second-best and tops in the NHL, respectively, among those 14 aforementioned netminders.

Part of the reason Bernier has been able to find such success is because his defense has stepped up to make his job easier on him. While Anaheim‘s blueline has been good for the entire season (their 29.5 shots-against-average is ninth-best in the NHL), they’ve allowed only 169 total shots to reach Bernier since Gibson went down, the lowest mark in the league.

Hampus Lindholm is certainly deserving of much praise for those solid results, but he’s joined by an unlikely aide: center Ryan Getzlaf. Both skaters have blocked 13 shots apiece since Gibson’s injury, and they’re joined by six others that have blocked at least five or more shots in that time. The entire squad is buying in and sacrificing their bodies for the greater good of the club, and their efforts are paying off in the win column.

More on Getzlaf: he actually has blocked the most shots all season among Western Conference forwards, and the third-most overall. Add in the fact that he has 55 takeaways this year, and we just might have ourselves a Frank J. Selke Trophy candidate.

Making the defense’s performance even more impressive, it has been put under additional strain to perform by the Ducks‘ power play. Instead of taking advantage of teams when they’re shorthanded, Anaheim has scored only one power play goal in the past two weeks for a 4.8% success rate – the second-worst mark in the NHL.

Though he leads the club in power play goals (seven) and co-leads in power play points (18, tied with Corey Perry), Ryan Kesler has not buried a goal with the man-advantage since December 4. That’s almost four months ago! If the Ducks are not careful, this man-advantage slump will, not can, bite them in the butt.

The Ducks made their annual trip to Madison Square Garden on February 7, but it was a visit they’d sooner forget. Between Grabner’s two-goal third period performance and Henrik Lundqvist‘s 43-save effort, it was all Anaheim could to do avoid a four-goal shutout by notching only one tally.

Some players to keep an eye on during tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (48 assists [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and New York‘s Lundqvist (30 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]).

Anaheim is marked as a -140 favorite to win tonight, which is actually the narrowest line I’ve found in a quick search. The matchup tonight is simple: can the Ducks‘ defense shut down Zuccarello? If they can, they’re on their way to two points. If not, their remaining seven games just got even more important than they already were.

Hockey Birthday

  • Roger Leger (1919-1965) – A Quebec-native is never happier than when he’s playing for the Canadiens. That’s what this defenseman got to do for four of his five seasons in the league, though he must be one of the few Habs during the Original Six Era to retire without winning a Stanley Cup.
  • Ulf Samuelsson (1964-) – In comparison, this longtime Whalers defenseman played in the NHL for 16 seasons and twice hoisted the most coveted trophy in sports – though not with Hartford, of course. Instead, he was a member of both Penguins squads that etched their names into the Stanley Cup in the early 90s.
  • Michael Peca (1974-) – Selected by Vancouver 40th-overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, this center is similar to Samuelsson in the sense that he won one trophy twice, but it was the Selke Trophy instead of the Stanley Cup. Playing most of his 14-year career with Buffalo, he notched 217 points while wearing the blue-and-gold.
  • Jimmy Howard (1984-) – This goaltender was selected by Detroit with the 64th-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s played each and every one of his 396 career games in the league. In total, he’s earned a 197-121-54 record and made one All-Star Game appearance.

Every once in a while, a player refuses to lose a particular game. In yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, that player was First Star of the Game Riley Nash, who scored both Bruins goals to lead them to a 2-1 victory over the Islanders.

What seemed to spur Nash was Third Star John Tavares‘ (Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson) snap shot with 9:55 remaining in the first period. It proved to be New York‘s lone goal of the game, but that was all the spark Nash needed. He buried an unassisted wrist shot only 36 seconds later to tie the game at one-all.

The draw held until the 4:12 mark of the third period when Nash (Dominic Moore) scored only his seventh tally of the season and sixth game-winner of his NHL career on a snapper.

Not all heroes wear capes, as Nash’s solid effort ended Boston‘s four-game losing skid and moved it into the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference.

Second Star Anton Khudobin earned the victory after saving 18-of-19 shots faced (94.7%), leaving the loss to Thomas Greiss, who saved 16-of-18 (88.9%).

It’s a perplexing situation, but road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a combined 81-56-23 record, which is three points better than the series’ hosts.

March 7 – Day 139 – Yeo, what’s up?

First and foremost, my extreme thanks to @kephartc and @nlanciani53 for covering my post while I was traveling. Their efforts were much appreciated, and I hope that they enjoyed making this column their own.

But now, whether you like it or now, it’s back under control.

That’s obviously me, laughing maniacally.

Anyways, the action starts when it usually does  – at 7 p.m. – with New Jersey at Columbus, followed half an hour later by a trio of games (Philadelphia at Buffalo [NBCSN], Detroit at Toronto [TVAS] and the New York Rangers at Florida). St. Louis at Minnesota is the only contest to drop the puck at 8 p.m., but two (Carolina at Colorado and the New York Islanders at Edmonton) get underway an hour after. The final two matchups of the day – Montréal at Vancouver (RDS) and Nashville at Anaheim (SN1) – get the green light at 10 p.m. to close out tonight’s action.

Short list:

  • New Jersey at Columbus: After six seasons with the Blue Jackets‘ organization, Dalton Prout makes his first appearance in Columbus against the club that drafted him.
  • Detroit at Toronto: Oh, you know, it’s just one of the better all-time rivalries of the NHL.
  • New York at Florida: Brandon Pirri is another player who has connections with the team his current club is facing tonight.
  • St. Louis at Minnesota: A little sooner than planned, Mike Yeo is coaching his first contest at Xcel Energy Center since being released last season.
  • Nashville at Anaheim: It’s a rematch between last year’s Western Conference Quarter-finalists.

Since the Blues-Wild game also serves as an early preview of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s head up to the Twin Cities.

Yeo joined the Wild organization before the 2010-’11 season when he took command of the Houston Aeros, Minnesota‘s former AHL farm team. That in itself was a homecoming, as Yeo had spent five seasons as a player for the Aeros. While captain, he led the team to the 1999 Turner Cup.

Only one year into his tenure with the Aeros as head coach, the club improved immensely. He took over a team that finished last in its division, and turned it into conference finalist – an impressive feat.

When the Wild were looking for a coach the following season, they didn’t have to look far. Yeo earned his promotion to the NHL 366 days after being signed to Houston, and he ended up leading Minnesota for more than four seasons.

The turnaround wasn’t quite as instantaneous as it was in Houston. His first season finished in fourth-place in the Northwest Division, outside of playoff contention. Yeo’s magic started kicking in during the 2012-’13 season when his club took second in the Northwest.

That began the treacherous trend against the Blackhawks. Starting with the 2013 playoffs, Yeo’s Wild faced Chicago three-straight seasons, and three-straight times they were eliminated.

The 2015-’16 campaign proved to by Yeo’s last in the Twin Cities. The Wild were under-performing at  23-22-10, so Chuck Fletcher decided to hire John Torchetti for the remainder of the season.

This offseason, Yeo was hired by the Blues as an assistant coach and head-man-in-waiting behind Ken Hitchcock, but – in a similar situation as Yeo a season ago – the club has not been as successful as management would like. Doug Armstrong hit the fast-forward button on his organization and promoted Yeo to head coach. Results have… varied… but the Notes are currently qualifying for the playoffs.

*Author’s note: Since I’m still on the road, I could not record final stats from Monday night and, more importantly, rankings. Consider any rankings unofficial.*

Even though they’ve lost their last four games, the Blues enter tonight’s game with a 31-26-5 record, good enough for fourth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference. St. Louis is certainly an offensive-minded team, but their 175 goals in 64 games is tied for only 15th-most in the league.

Vladimir Tarasenko is easily the best forward on this team – who would’ve guessed? He has a team-leading 56 points to his credit, but the more frightening number is his 28 goals. That total ties for 10th-most in the NHL.

The best way to beat the Blues is to not let them earn a power play, as they’re proud owners of the fifth-best effort in the league. Kevin Shattenkirk has been at the head of that attack with his 20 extra-man goals, and his seven power play goal-total is tied with Tarasenko for most on the team.

The Notes certainly don’t get beat on special teams, as they’ve also been very successful when short a man. Thanks in large part to Alex Pietrangelo‘s 29 shorthanded shot blocks, the Notes have stopped 84% of opposing power plays – the eighth-best mark in the league.

Bruce Boudreau has turned Yeo’s work into a hockey powerhouse, as the 41-15-6 Wild are the best team in the Central and the Western conference. Minnesota is incredible on both ends of the ice, but the offense has been the stronger of the two facets of their game of later. Accounting for 209 goals in 63 games, the Wild score the second-most goals-per-game in the NHL.

Mikael Granlund gets to take a lot of credit for that success, as his 59 points are tops in Minnesota. 21 of those have been goals, which is also the best mark on the team.

It’s splitting hairs to say that the Wild’s power play is worse than St. Louis‘, as Minnesota is tied for sixth-best with their 22.1% success rate. As you’d expect, Granlund has been at the forefront of that effort with his 18 power play points, but it’s been Nino Niederreiter burying most of the goals – his eight extra-man tallies top the team.

Similarly, Minnesota‘s penalty kill is also barely better than the Blues‘. Successful 84.3% of the time, the Wild are seventh-best in the NHL. Jared Spurgeon has had a heavy hand in this effort with his 17 shorthanded blocks – the most on the team.

Minnesota has had the upper-hand in this series so far this season. The last time they squared off, the Wild expanded their record against the Blues to 2-1-1 with a 5-1 victory on January 26.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk (35 wins on a .933 save percentage [both best in the league] and a 2.01 GAA [second-best in the NHL], including five shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]), Granlund (+28 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]), Mikko Koivu (+28 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Spurgeon (+34 [second-best in the NHL]), Ryan Suter (+35 [best in the league]) and Jason Zucker (+31 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]) & St. Louis‘ Pietrangelo (127 blocks [most on the team]), Ryan Reaves (168 hits [most on the team]), Shattenkirk (31 assists [most on the team]) and Tarasenko (28 goals for 56 points [both most on the team])

It’s hard to pick against the best in the West when they have home ice. I like the Wild to win by at least two goals tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mike Eagles (1963-) – Selected by Quebec in the sixth round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, this forward played 16 seasons in the NHL – most of which with the Capitals. Though he scored nearly 200 points over his career, he was more known as an enforcer: he collected 928 minutes in the penalty box.
  • Terry Carkner (1966-) – The Rangers picked this defenseman 14th-overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the rival Flyers. He fit the character of Philadelphia to a t, earning nearly 1600 penalty minutes.
  • Eric Godard (1980-) – It’s the birthday of enforcers. This right wing spent most of his eight-year NHL career with the Penguins – specifically Pittsburgh‘s penalty box. He served a total of 833 minutes in the sin bin.
  • Niclas Bergfors (1987-) – Last playing in the NHL in the 2011-’12 season, New Jersey selected this Swedish right wing 23rd-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry draft. He has 83 points to his credit, but he currently plays Djurgarden Hockey in the Swedish Hockey League.

February 7 – Day 111 – Pigeons not the only birds in Gotham

A whopping 11 games are on the schedule this evening, so let’s hop right in. Like it usually does, the action starts at 7 p.m. with four contests (San Jose at Buffalo, Anaheim at the New York Rangers, Calgary at Pittsburgh [TVAS] and Carolina at Washington), followed half an hour later by another set of four (Dallas at Toronto, St. Louis at Ottawa [RDS2], Columbus at Detroit and Los Angeles at Tampa Bay [NBCSN]). We keep moving west with two contests (Vancouver at Nashville and Minnesota at Winnipeg) dropping the puck at 8 p.m., followed an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Montréal at Colorado (RDS). All times eastern.

There’s a handful of good games this evening, but I expect the best one to occur at Madison Square Garden. To the Big Apple we go!

Unknown-1New York Rangers Logo

 

The Ducks make their yearly trip to the World’s Most Famous Arena with a 28-16-10 record, good enough for second place in the Pacific Division. They’ve found much of that success on the back of their defense and goaltending, as Anaheim has allowed only 133 goals in 54 games this season, the sixth-best rate in the NHL.

That all starts with 20-12-8 John Gibson, who’s having a solid campaign. He’s accumulated a .921 season save percentage and a 2.27 GAA, the (t)eighth and sixth-best efforts, respectively, among the 43 goaltenders with at least 20 appearances.

Much of the reason he’s found such success has been due to the blueline playing in front of him, which has allowed only 29.4 shots-per-game to reach his crease – the 10th-best rate in the league. That being said, the defense is working its hardest to fill some big skates. Sami Vatanen, who leads the club with 94 shot blocks, is currently fighting a lower-body injury to the point that Brandon Montour was recalled from San Diego. Cam Fowler, who has blocked 82 shots so far this year for the active-lead in the clubhouse, is being called on to fill the void.

The defensive success continues on the penalty kill, where the Ducks rank fifth-best by refusing to yield a goal on 84.3% of opposing power plays. Vatanen is usually a big player when down a man with 19 shorthanded blocks to his credit, so Anaheim will once again turn their eyes to Fowler, who’s 18 blocks when down a man are second-best.

Playing host this evening are the 33-18-1 Rangers, the fourth-best team in the Metropolitan Division and fifth-best in the Eastern Conference. Winners of their last two games, the Blueshirts have found a lot of their success with the puck on their stick, scoring 175 goals already this season – the second-most in the league.

New York‘s forwards may not turn heads when compared to the rest of the league, but they play incredibly well together. Leading the group has been J.T. Miller with 40 points, but four other skaters have at least 35 points to their credit. And he’s not even the one scoring all the goals. That job belongs to Michael Grabner, who tops the club with 23 tallies.

As might be expected, the Blueshirts‘ power play is pretty darn good. Led by Captain Ryan McDonagh and his 12 power play points, New York converts 21.3% of it’s opponents’ penalties into tallies, the ninth-best rate in the NHL. What makes the Rangers so dangerous is that opposing goaltenders don’t know who is going to take the final shot. The power play goal scoring title is shared between Chris Kreider, Rick Nash and Brandon Pirri, all of whom have five tallies with the man-advantage.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Gibson (2.27 GAA [seventh-best in the league] and three shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the NHL) and New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (23 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

It’s strength-on-strength tonight at MSG, which means the other end of the ice may prove to be more important in determining the outcome. Given the Rangers‘ strong play on the defensive end, I think the home squad holds on for the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Peter Bondra (1968-) – An eighth-rounder selected by Washington in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing earned five All-Star selections over his 16 seasons.
  • Alexandre Daigle (1975-) – Selected by Ottawa, this center was the first pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He spent half of his 10 seasons in the league with the Senators, his longest tenure with a club.
  • David Aebischer (1978-) – This goaltender was selected in the sixth-round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Colorado. He made his debut with the club during the 2000-’01 season and was a member of the Stanley Cup-winning team.
  • Steven Stamkos (1990-) – Another top pick, Tampa Bay selected this center in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he’s managed three All-Star selections and two Richard trophies.
  • Ryan O’Reilly (1991-) – Picked 33rd-overall by Colorado in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, this center’s crowing achievement is the 2014 Byng trophy. This season is his second in Buffalo.

In yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, First Star of the Game Carter Hutton led the Blues to a two-goal shutout victory over Philadelphia.

Paul Stastny (Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Steen) takes credit for the winning goal with 4:38 remaining in the second period on a tip-in.

Second Star Kenny Agostino (David Perron and Jori Lehtera) tacked on the lone insurance tally 2:10 into the final frame on a breakaway snap shot in his first game as a Blue.

Hutton saved all 26 shots he faced for the victory, leaving the loss to Michal Neuvirth, who saved 14-of-16 (87.5%).

Road teams have earned three-straight victories in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and that surge has pulled them within seven points of the 59-37-17 homers.

January 13 – Day 90 – Ready for an Original Six game?

It’s finally Friday, so sit back and watch some hockey after that stressful business week. The action gets started at 7 p.m. with two games (Toronto at the New York Rangers and Chicago at Washington [NHLN]), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Florida and Buffalo at Carolina). Columbus at Tampa Bay (SN/TVAS) drops the puck at 8 p.m., trailed an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps (New Jersey at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona).

Short list:

  • Toronto at New York: It’s another Original Six game this evening, this one taking place at Madison Square Garden.
  • New York at Florida: Last postseason, the Islanders upset Florida in the Eastern Quarterfinals before falling to Tampa Bay.

Don’t tell anybody, but Toronto is only four points out of playoff position, and tonight’s game in the Big Apple will be a good test to see if they’re capable of acting  on the opportunity.

UnknownNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The Leafs make their lone trip of the season to Manhattan with an 18-13-8 record. The main problem for Toronto has been their defense and goaltending, which has allowed 111 goals against – only the 15th-fewest in the league.

With the exception of six games, 17-9-7 Frederik Andersen has always been the man in charge of the crease for the Maple Leafs this season. So far, he’s saved .918 percent of shots faced for a 2.69 GAA, which ties for 18th and 27th-best among the 44 goalies with 17 or more appearances.

While Andersen has been far from impressive, he can’t shoulder the entire blame. The Leafs have allowed an average of 32.6 shots-per-game to reach Andersen’s crease, tied for the fourth-worst in the league. Morgan Rielly has given all he can and more to Toronto, as he leads the club with 67 shot blocks.

If the Leafs truly want to make a playoff push, I’d expect them to be active at the trade deadline to bring in a quality defenseman.

Although the Leafs have tied for the seventh-best effort on the penalty kill with a 83.6% kill rate (led by Roman Polak‘s 16 short-handed blocks), percentages can be deceiving. Toronto averages 11:35 penalty minutes per game, the second-highest in the NHL, and Andersen has struggled mightily. He’s allowed 19 power play goals to slip past him, which ties for the seventh-most in the league.

Fortunately, Toronto has been very successful on the power play. Led by William Nylander and his 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs bury the puck 22.4% of the time with the man-advantage, the seventh-best rate in the league. Nazem Kadri has been the one responsible for most of those situational goals, with eight to his credit (tied for the fourth-most in the NHL).

You know you’re in a tough division when you’re riding a two-game winning streak and have the fifth-best point percentage in the NHL, yet you’re still only in a wild card spot. That’s the position the 28-13-1 Rangers find themselves in, although that can change with a win tonight, as they could take advantage of Pittsburgh‘s two-game losing skid and jump into third place in the division. As they have been all season, they’ll be led by their dominant offense that has accounted for a league-leading 144 points.

Although it’s more than a two-headed assault, the main pair getting a lot of the praise right now in New York are Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan, both of whom have an impressive 31 points to their credit. Of course, they’ve mostly been facilitators. The striker on this team is still Michael Grabner with his 19 tallies.

As you might expect, the Blueshirts‘ power play is no slouch. In fact, they’re third best in the league, successful on 23.2% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh has been at the forefront of that effort with nine power play points, but hasn’t been the one scoring the goals. That duty has been shared by Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey, all of whom have four power play goals.

Even the penalty kill has been impressive, refusing to yield to the opposition’s man-advantage 83% of the time, the 10th-best effort in the league. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of responsibility for that ranking, as his 16 shorthanded blocks are tops on the club.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Grabner (+22 [fifth-best in the NHL]), Nick Holden (+20 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Henrik Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (17 wins [10th-most in the league]) and Auston Matthews (21 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has put a -137 next to the Rangers‘ name to indicate they’re the favorites this evening. It’s hard to argue with, given their success regardless of who they’re playing. Until Toronto can put together a full game on a regular basis, they will not be able to stand up to talented teams like New York.

Hockey Birthday

  • Art Ross (1886-1964) – It’s nearly impossible to fully summarize all Ross did. The defenseman won two Stanley Cups as a player, and tacked on an additional three as a coach or general manager for Boston. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949, and the yearly award for the season’s leading scorer is named in his honor.
  • Cesare Maniago (1939-) – This goaltender played 568 games over 15 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the North Stars. He completed his career with a 190-257-97 record on a 3.27 GAA.
  • Kelly Hrudey (1961-) – Another netminder, the Islanders drafted Hrudey 38th-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. That being said, he spent most of his 15 seasons in Los Angeles en route to a 271-265-88 career record.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin (1973-) – Drafted in the ninth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the original Jets, this goaltender would’ve been a steal 100 picks earlier. The Bulin Wall finished his 18-season career with a 333-334-97 record, four All Star selections and a 2004 Stanley Cup title while in Tampa Bay.
  • Sergei Brylin (1974-) – The 42nd-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft played his entire career with the club that drafted him – New Jersey. During that time, he notched 308 points to win three Stanley Cups.
  • Marc Staal (1987-) – The middle Staal brother was the 12th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, and that’s where he’s played every since. Over his entire career, he’s notched a +40.
  • Connor McDavid (1997-) – In only 88 career games, the first pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Edmonton has already notched 96 points. There’s no ifs about it: he will be the next superior player, if he’s not already.
  • Ivan Provorov (1997-) – The seventh-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Philadelphia, this defenseman has finally joined the Flyers this season. He’s made quite the impact, tying Shayne Gostisbehere with 19 points for most by a Philly blueliner.

Talk about an evening of comebacks. First, Third Star of the Game Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton. Then, the Oilers scored a game-tying goal with 7:24 remaining in regulation to force overtime, which they used to beat the Devils 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The lone goal of the first period belonged to Travis Zajac (Kyle Palmieri and Michael Cammalleri) and the visiting Devils. He tipped-in his shot with 1:54 remaining in the frame to put New Jersey ahead going into intermission.

Edmonton pulled the game back even almost immediately after returning to the ice. 16 seconds after the initial puck drop, Andrej Sekera (Second Star Leon Draisaitl and Adam Larsson) scored a snapper to tie the game at one-all. That draw lasted until 51 seconds remained in the second period, when Steven Santini (Hall and P.A. Parenteau) scored the first goal of his career. Once again, Jersey took a one-goal lead into the dressing room.

As stated before, the Oilers tied the game with 7:24 remaining in regulation off a wrister from First Star Patrick Maroon (Draisaitl and McDavid). Neither side was able to break the knot, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

Only 1:50 into the five-minute period, Draisaitl (McDavid and Oscar Klefbom) ended the game in the home club’s favor with an impressive slap shot, his 16th goal of the season.

Cam Talbot earned the victory after saving 16-of-18 shots faced (88.9%), leaving the loss to Cory Schneider, who saved 31-of-34 (91.2%).

The Oilers‘ victory is the second-straight by a home club in the DtFR Game of the Day series, improving the hosts’ record to 49-29-14, 10 points better than the visitors.

January 4 – Day 81 – Metropolitan Mayhem

Time to get back to Wednesday night hockey. To make up for the lighter schedule on Monday, there’s quite a few more games than usual tonight, starting at 7 p.m. with Winnipeg at Florida (SN1). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of two more games (Montréal at Dallas [RDS/SN360] and the New York Rangers at Philadelphia [NBCSN/TVAS]), with another two contests waiting until 10 p.m. (Arizona at Vancouver and Colorado at Calgary). Finally, Detroit at Anaheim – this evening’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Philadelphia: A rivalry made only more heated by the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
  • Colorado at Calgary: Joe Colborne makes his first return to the Saddledome after spending the last three seasons there.
  • Detroit at Anaheim: Nothing reminds Red Wings fans of days gone by like a former rivalry.

Nothing personal, Colborne, but that game in Philly is going to be way too good to miss!

New York Rangers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

EaglesGiants. KnicksSixers. MetsPhillies.

It’s not just tonight’s teams that don’t like each other. It’s a city vs. city rivalry that brings out the best – or worst, depending on your opinion! – in these towns.

Wearing white tonight are the 26-13-1 Rangers, the third best team in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. As has been the case all season, the name of the game in New York has been offense, and they’re very good at that. They’ve scored 134 goals, the most in the league.

Derek Stepan has been at the helm for much of that effort, notching a team-leading 30 points, including 14 points in the last 13 games. That being said, it’s been Chris Kreider who has struck the most fear in opposing goaltenders, burying 15 goals to be the most dangerous scorer for the Blueshirts.

Much of the reason for the Rangers‘ scoring success has been their power play, which ranks fourth-best in the league after converting 22.9% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh takes over in these situations, as his nine power play points are tops on the team, but similar to Stepan, he’s been a better facilitator than goalscorer. On the man-advantage, that role is shared by four skaters – Kreider, injured Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey – that have all lit the lamp four times apiece on the power play.

New York has also been strong on the penalty kill, neutralizing 83.9% of their penalties to rank ninth-best in the NHL. Every Rangers skater has a role, and the penalty kill seems to be Kevin Klein‘s assignment, as his 15 shorthanded blocks are tops in Manhattan.

Clad in orange, the 20-14-5 Flyers play host this evening at the Wells Fargo Center. Similar to New York, offense has been the key to Philly‘s success, as their 112 tallies ties for fifth-most in the league.

Jakub Voracek sweaters have been flying (see what I did there?!?) off the shelves in Philadelphia, as the right wing’s 35 points are the best in town. Then again, Wayne Simmonds has never been hotter. He’s already scored 17 times this season, the most on the club. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll have buried 36 goals by the time the season is complete, four more than last year’s career-high.

The power play has been ticking on Broad Street. The Flyers convert 21.7% of their opportunities, the sixth-best effort in the NHL. This is where Captain Claude Giroux takes command of the ship, already notching 16 power play points this season. Just like Voracek (stop me if you’ve heard something like this today…), Giroux has been a fantastic facilitator, setting up both Brayden Schenn and Simmonds for eight extra-man goals apiece.

New York and Philadelphia have met up only once before this season, a game we featured here at Down the Frozen River. The day after Thanksgiving, the Rangers survived a two-goal surge by the Flyers to win 3-2. Henrik Lundqvist was in net for that victory, winning in-front of 19,981 Philly fans, the biggest crowd the Rangers performed before all November – home or away.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Lundqvist (16 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.28 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (17 goals [ninth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked the Flyers a slight favorite at -115, but I’m not willing to take that bet. New York‘s potent offense is playing against a suspect goaltender, not to mention a weak penalty kill. I have the Rangers winning.


As much as Third Star of the Game Shea Weber tried to hog the attention in to his return to Nashville, it was First Star Max Pacioretty that provided the overtime goal to give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory in yesterdays DtFR Game of the Day.

It was actually the host Predators who got on the board first. With 54 seconds remaining in the second period, Kevin Fiala (Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi) buried a backhander to give Nashville a 1-0 lead going into the third frame.

Weber (Alexander Radulov and Torrey Mitchell) didn’t take too kindly to that, so he leveled the game 4:26 after returning to the ice. Neither club could break the one-all tie, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

With half a minute remaining before the shootout, Pacioretty (Radulov and Nathan Beaulieu) ended the game with a wrister.

What makes Pacioretty’s performance even more impressive is that he took a puck to the foot at this morning’s skate that hurt so much he had to be helped from the ice. Who fired that puck, you ask? Weber, obviously!

Carey Price earns the victory after saving 23-of-23 (95.7%), leaving the overtime loss to Second Star Pekka Rinne, who saved 41-of-43 (95.3%).

Montréal‘s victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 46-24-13, favoring the home squads by 16 points over the roadies.

December 18 – Day 67 – Battle of the Hudson River

There’s only six more days of hockey left before the Christmas break! Start cramming hockey pucks now, starting with Los Angeles at Boston (SN) at 1 p.m., followed by Colorado at Winnipeg at 3 p.m. and Columbus at Vancouver at 4 p.m. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it two puck drops (San Jose at Chicago [NHLN] and Ottawa at the New York Islanders [SN/TVAS]), trailed 30 minutes later by tonight’s nightcap: New Jersey at the New York RangersAll times eastern.

The Devils may not be having the success they’d like this season, but nothing can lift a team’s spirits more than a victory over a nearby rival. Let’s follow the Rangers back to Madison Square Garden for the Battle of the Hudson River!

New Jersey Devils LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Separated by only 10 miles, this rivalry was sparked the minute the Colorado Rockies moved to Meadowlands Arena in 1982. Since then, these clubs have met 267 times total, with the Rangers leading both the all-time series at 122-110-27-8, and the more competitive playoff series at 18-16.

Nothing details this rivalry better than their dominance in the 90s than counting trophies. New York‘s Stanley Cup victory in 1994 is widely known, as it was their first title in 54 years. But don’t let it be forgotten who they played in the Eastern Conference Finals. You guessed it, it was their old pal Jersey. The Rangers needed seven games to best the Devils before advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals to beat Vancouver.

Although they didn’t have to go through the Blueshirts (they have Philadelphia to thank for that, even though they don’t get along with that club either), it was the Devils‘ turn to take home Lord Stanley a year later. They bested Detroit in a quick four games that year to earn the franchise’s first title.

My, how things have changed since those days. Entering tonight’s game in seventh-place in the Metropolitan Division, the 12-12-6 Devils would beg for success like that, especially given their five-game losing skid. Although the defense and goaltending have not been phenomenal this season, the main reason for Jersey‘s struggles have been on the scoring end of the ice where they’ve managed only 70 goals – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With a team-leading 23 points, Travis Zajac has been involved in nearly a third of the Devils‘ scores. That being said, Mike Cammalleri holds the clubhouse goal-scoring lead having lit the lamp nine times so far this campaign.

Between the two of them and Taylor Hall, who has eight goals among 20 points with his new club, they have scored 35.7% of the Devils‘ goals. In short, the Devils need to find a way to get more skaters involved in scoring. No other players have more than 17 points to their credit, which is a striking number given the fact that Zajac only ties for the 36th-most points in the league. This entire offense needs a reboot, but it is going to have to be a team-effort.

Not unexpectedly, the Devils have also struggled on the power play. Their 14.9% conversion rate is eighth-worst in the NHL, but that can’t be blamed on Hall. He already has seven power play points to his credit, as well as four power play goals to lead the squad in both categories. Unfortunately for the Devils, that only ties for the 61st-best effort with the man-advantage in the league, which considerably takes the wind out of Hall’s sails.

Jersey might have been struggling on the power play, but they still find great success on the penalty kill. Led by Captain Andy Greene‘s 19 shorthanded blocks, the Devils have refused to yield a goal to 83.2% of opposing power plays, tying them for the ninth-best rate in the league.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the odds of them snapping their losing skid are bleak, as they face the second-best team in the Metropolitan Division: the 22-10-1 Rangers, who are riding a two-game win streak thanks to last night’s shootout victory in Nashville. As has been the case all year, the Blueshirts are making headlines with their powerful offense that has already notched 109 tallies this season – the most in the NHL.

Like I said yesterday, you have to keep an eye on the club scoring title in Manhattan. Currently, the king of the dressing room is Kevin Hayes, who has 23 points to his credit. Similarly, Michael Grabner is not the sole lead-goalscorer anymore. He’s been joined by Rick Nash, as they both have 13 tallies apiece.

Currently rating ninth-best, New York has had a solid power play this season as they’re successful on 21.4% of attempts. Six skaters have headed that effort, but Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey deserve special credit as they each have four goals with the man-advantage, tying for a team-high.

The Blueshirts have been even more impressive on the penalty kill, where their 87.3% success rate is third-best in the NHL. Kevin Klein‘s 13 shorthanded blocks have been the most impressive effort on the squad, but 14 of New York‘s 26 skaters have notched at least one block on the penalty kill. This entire club has bought in on both ends of the ice, and Alain Vigneault should be proud.

Tonight’s contest is the second time these teams have met this season. Only a Sunday ago, Madison Square Garden hosted the Devils to a five-goal shutout Rangers victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New Jersey‘s Cammalleri (nine goals [leads the team]), Kyle Palmieri (57 hits [leads the team]), Kyle Quincey (+5 [leads the team]) and Zajac (15 assists among 23 points [both lead the team]) & New York‘s Grabner (+18 [tied for second-best in the league]), Hayes (+16 [tied for eighth-best in the NHL]) and, depending on who plays, Henrik Lundqvist (14 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (1.67 GAA on a .941 save percentage [both second-best in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

New York is favored at almost every casino in Vegas, and for good reason. All facets of the game are going their way these days, which is the exact opposite of what you can say about Jersey. Expect the Rangers to put a similar beat-down on their rivals as they did last weekend.

Hockey Birthday

  • Jean Pronovost (1945-) – This right wing played 998 games over 14 seasons, most of which with Pittsburgh. By the time his career was done, he’d notched 774 points and been selected for four All Star games.
  • Dan Cleary (1978-) – The 13th-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, this left wing has played most of his 17+ year career with Detroit, where he was a member of the Stanley Cup winning 2008 Red Wings team. He still plays in Detroit‘s system with Grand Rapids, and made 17 appearances with the senior team in the 2014-15 season.

Third Star of the Game Vesey’s return to Nashville – if you can call it that – went exactly as he would have liked, as his Rangers beat the Predators 2-1 in a shootout in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to Nash (Hayes and Nick Holden) and the Rangers. Nash’s wrister was his 13th goal of the year.

It stood as the would-be winner until Second Star Mike Fisher buried an unassisted wrister of his own 9:22 into the second frame to level the score at one-all. As neither side was able to break the tie with the remaining 35:38, which included five minutes of three-on-three play, the important bonus point was awarded in a shootout.

As home team, the Predators elected to shoot first…

  1. …and sent Ryan Johansen into the fray. Lundqvist was not about to let that into his net.
  2. Wonder boy himself, Vesey’s shot was pure to give the Rangers a 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Next up for Nashville, Craig Smith did even worse than Johansen – he missed the cage.
  4. Mats Zuccarello ended the shootout almost as quickly as it began, scoring on First Star Juuse Saros.

Lundqvist earns the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.9%), while Saros takes the shootout loss, saving 26-of-27 (96.3%).

Another road victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series pulls the roadies within six points of the hosts, who have a 36-22-11 record.

December 17 – Day 66 – Vesey vs. Nashville

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

Short list:

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

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

New York Rangers LogoUnknown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 13 – Day 62 – Darling division leaders

Welcome to Tuesday night hockey. As usual, it’s a busy night, and the action gets started at 7 p.m. with four contests (Los Angeles at Buffalo, Washington at the New York Islanders, Chicago at the New York Rangers [NBCSN/SN/TVAS] and Vancouver at Carolina). Two more games drop the puck half an hour later (San Jose at Toronto and Arizona at Detroit), while another pair waits until the top of the hour (St. Louis at Nashville and Florida at Minnesota). Anaheim at Dallas finds its start at 8:30 p.m., and this evening’s nightcap – Columbus at Edmonton – gets green-lit at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Washington at New York: A Metropolitan Division rivalry that began in the 1980s.
  • Chicago at New York: An “Original Six” matchup, and the only time this regular season that the Hawks visit Manhattan.

Chicago at New York would be a phenomenal game even if it weren’t an old-school rivalry. The history between both franchises only adds to this contest.

Unknown-2New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know how they keep slipping through the cracks, but the Blackhawks haven’t been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series since their 2-1 shootout victory over Florida on November 29.

Their play has been far from the reason for their absence, as their 18-8-4 record is best in the Western Conference. Although Chicago is home to a long list of excellent goalscorers, they’ve found much of their success by keeping opponents off the scoreboard. The Hawks have yielded only 69 goals this season, tying for seventh-fewest in the league.

While Corey Crawford is still the lead netminder in the Windy City, an emergency appendectomy on December 3 has forced him to the Blackhawks‘ injured reserve list. Enter 6-2-2 backup Scott Darling, whose .929 save percentage and 2.12 GAA is 11th and 12th-best effort, respectively, among the 58 goalies with five or more appearances.

For those wondering, I wouldn’t bet on Lars Johansson making his first-ever NHL start, even though Darling has played every second of Chicago‘s last five games (Darling is 2-2-1 in those games). We’ll break down New York‘s offense in a minute, but a quick summary: they’re one of the best in the league. Not the best way to introduce him to the NHL family.

Crawford, and now Darling, deserve much of the success for Chicago‘s defensive prowess, as the blueline playing in front of them has been nothing to write home about. The Hawks‘ goalies face an average of 30.8 shots-per-game, tying for the 11th-most in the NHL. That being said, that critique does not apply to Niklas Hjalmarsson, whose 64 blocks not only lead the squad, but ties for sixth-most in the entire league.

Due in large part to the overall effort of the defense, Chicago‘s penalty kill has struggled mightily this year. The Hawks allow opposing power plays to score 27.3% of the time, the absolute worst in the NHL. Other than Hjalmarsson’s 16 shorthanded blocks, no other defenseman has more than 10 to his name.

Hosting the Hawks this evening are the 20-9-1 Rangers, who currently occupy second place in the Metropolitan Division, arguably the toughest division in hockey. As mentioned before, they’ve played the best offense in hockey, scoring 105 goals in 30 games.

That 3.5 goals-per-game average is led by J.T. Miller and his 22 points. Although that effort is only good enough to tie him for 33rd-best in the league, it’s the fact that four skaters for the Rangers have 20 or more points to their credit. Adding to that depth has been Michael Grabner, who – although he only has 17 points – has buried 13 goals already this season, the most on the team.

Like I said, Johansson wants no part of this game, and Darling probably doesn’t either!

As would be expected, New York‘s power play has been very successful as well. Converting 22.6% of their opportunities, the Blueshirts rank fifth-best in the league. Again, what makes this man-advantage so frightening is that goaltenders have no idea where the pressure is coming from. A whopping six skaters have six power play points to their credit, including Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey, each of whom have four extra-man tallies.

The winning ways don’t stop when down a man. Madison Square Garden also houses the fourth-best penalty kill, as the Rangers refuse to allow the opposition to score on 85.9% of power play opportunities. Kevin Klein takes much of the credit in that department, as his 13 shorthanded blocks are most on the club.

The Rangers have already made their yearly trip to the United Center, where they won 1-0 game last Friday thanks to a Nick Holden overtime winner. Darling was in net for Chicago in that game, so perhaps he knows the secret that has eluded so many other teams to slowing down an offense that has so far been better than last year’s Stars and Capitals.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Chicago‘s Darling (.929 save percentage [10th-best in the NHL]), Marian Hossa (15 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Patrick Kane (20 assists [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & New York‘s Kevin Hayes (+16 [tied for third-best in the league]), Grabner (+19 [best in the NHL]) and, should he play, Antti Raanta (1.65 GAA [second-best in the league] on a .943 save percentage [third-best in the NHL]).

The Rangers are marked -145 favorites to win tonight’s game, and I think you’d be crazy to bet against them. In addition to simply being  an incredible team overall (potentially the best team in hockey), they have an impressive 11-4-1 record at home and are riding a three-game winning streak. Although it won’t be an easy win, I am confident in a Blueshirt victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Mohns (1933-2014) – This seven-time All-Star played an impressive 22 seasons, most of which with the Boston Bruins. By the time his career was over, he’d notched 710 points, including 462 assists.
  • Bob Gainey (1953-) – The eighth-overall pick in the 1973 NHL Entry Draft, he played his entire NHL career with the club that drafted him: the Habs. By the time his playing days were through, he was a five-time Stanley Cup winner, four-time Selke winner, and the recipient of the 1979 Smythe Trophy. As you might expect with a resume like that, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and his number 23 was retired in 2008.
  • Sergei Fedorov (1969-) – Another Hall-of-Famer (Class of 2015), this center was drafted 74th-overall by Detroit in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. After 18 seasons, he’d won three Stanley Cups, two Selke Trophies, and the 1994 Hart and Pearson Trophies.
  • Bates Battaglia (1975-) – This left wing may have been drafted by Anaheim in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he never played for the Mighty Ducks. Instead, he spent most of his days in Carolina, where he notched 150 of his career 198 points.
  • Dan Hamhuis (1982-) – The 12th-overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft is currently in his first season with Dallas. Most of his playing days have been spent with the Central Division rival Predators, where he played 483 games.

They may have needed overtime, but Boston finally earned their first win of the season against the bitter rival Canadiens, winning 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Sixty-five seconds remained in the second period before the first goal was struck. Austin Czarnik (Adam McQuaid and Third Star of the Game Ryan Spooner) takes credit with only the third goal of his career. His wrister gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.

Desperation time was on the horizon in Montréal, but the Habs avoided making the decision to pull their netminder when Paul Byron (Torrey Mitchell and Andrei Markov) netted a backhander with 3:12 remaining on the clock. As neither team could break the knotted game, they settled to play three-on-three overtime.

Spooner (Torey Krug and Czarnik) apparently had enough of overtime, or he simply doesn’t like shootouts. Either way, he scored a wrister with 100 seconds remaining in overtime to earn the Bruins the extra point.

First Star Tuukka Rask earned the victory after saving 30-of-31 shots faced (96.8%), leaving the overtime loss to Second Star Carey Price, saving 27-of-29 (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series still favors the hosts, as their 36-19-9 record is 14 points better than the roadies’ efforts.

November 27 – Day 46 – Brassard was a Blueshirt

The long weekend is coming to an end, but not before we get six more games in. Today’s action gets started at 1 p.m. with two contests (Nashville at Winnipeg and Tampa Bay at Boston), followed two hours later by Arizona at Edmonton (SN). Whether you consider 6 p.m. a matinee or an evening game, it marks the start of Florida at Carolina. An hour later Ottawa visits the New York Rangers (NHLN/TVAS), trailed by Calgary at Philadelphia half an hour after. All times eastern.

I know it will be the sixth time in the last eight days that we’ve featured one of these two teams, but Derick Brassard is making his first trip back to Madison Square Garden of the year.

Unknown-6New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Brassard found his way to the Big Apple at the 2013 trade deadline during his sixth season with Columbus, the club that drafted him. The center played 254 games with the Rangers over his four campaigns, notching 174 points, plus an additional 44 over 59 playoff appearances.

His two most successful seasons so-far were played on this surface. In 2014-’15 he notched a career-high 60 points, which he missed by only two points in his 27-goal campaign a season later.

Coming off that 2015-’16 season, the Rangers shipped him off to the Canadian capital in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick. It’s a trade that has worked out well for both clubs, as each skater ranks top-six in points for their new squad.

Ottawa enters tonight’s game with a 13-7-1 record and riding a three-game winning streak, the best active in the Eastern Conference. They’ve made it to second-best in the Atlantic Division by allowing only 51 goals, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

A defensive breakdown always starts with the goaltender, in this case the 11-4-1 Craig Anderson. He’s reached that mark with a .932 save percentage and 2.15 GAA, the ninth and (t)12th-best effort among the 41 netminders with eight or more appearances.

Those numbers are even more impressive given how taxed he is. The Sens‘ blueline allows 31.1 shots to reach the cage a night, the ninth-highest average in the league. Erik Karlsson‘s 64 blocks are impressive, but he has 20 more deflections than Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf, who tie for second-most. I’ve been saying it all season, and I’ll say it again: the blueline has to improve if Ottawa doesn’t want to face the same fate as they did last year (read: no playoffs).

Anderson has continued his success on the penalty kill, as opponents’ power plays have been rejected 85.2% of the time – the eighth-best effort in the NHL.

The power play is Ottawa‘s Achilles heel, as their 10% success rate is second-worst in the NHL. Mike Hoffman and Karlsson have been the skaters leading the extra-man charge with four power play points to their credit, and Hoffman leads the team with two man-advantage goals.

Hosting Ottawa this evening are the 15-6-1 Rangers, the best club in the Metropolitan Division. Offense has been the name of the game in New York, as their 85 goals is best in the league by 17 tallies.

After 22 games, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller tie for the Blueshirt scoring lead with 19 points apiece. That being said, it’s been Michael Grabner who has scored the most goals – two more, in fact, than Hayes. In all, 22 skaters have gotten involved in the scoring, an incredible total.

As you’d probably expect, the success has continued to the power play where New York ranks sixth-best with a 21.5% success rate. This is really where the Rangers cashed in on their trade with Ottawa: Zibanejad leads the club with five power play points. That being said, those are all assists, leaving Rick Nash and Brandon Pirri to score three extra-man goals apiece to co-lead the squad.

The Rangers‘ success doesn’t stop there, though. The penalty kill has been equally as impressive, nullifying 86.2% of their infractions to rank sixth-best in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include New York‘s Dan Girardi (+12 [tied for fifth-best in the league]), Grabner (+20 [leads the NHL] on 12 goals [tied for second-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Miller (+13 [fourth-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (11 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] including two shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]).

It looks like it’s another game where Vegas doesn’t have a favorite. I don’t feel very comfortable with that pick, as the Rangers are arguably playing the best hockey in the league right now. I think they can handle the Senators tonight, especially playing at Madison Square Garden.

Hockey Birthday

  • Pierre Mondou (1955-) – This center was the 15th-overall pick in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal. He played eight seasons and nine postseasons with the club, totaling 616 total games played. Two of those playoff appearances ended with him hoisting the Stanley Cup.
  • Chad Kilger (1976-) – Selected fourth-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim, this right wing spent most of his 714 games in Toronto.

They needed a shootout, but the Penguins bested New Jersey 4-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first frame belonged to the visiting Devils. Second Star of the Game Mike Cammalleri (Kyle Palmieri) takes credit for the tally struck only 3:33 after taking the ice that gave Jersey a 1-0 lead.

Mike Sullivan didn’t seem to like that very much, as Pittsburgh quickly took the lead in the second frame. 1:23 after returning to the ice, the Pens found themselves tied after a Jake Guentzel (First Star Evgeni Malkin and Trevor Daley) wrister. 1:15 later, Tom Kuhnhackl‘s (Malkin and Steven Oleksy) first goal of the season put Pittsburgh ahead. That lead lasted only 1:22 before Vernon Fiddler buried an unassisted, shorthanded backhander to level the game at two-all. The final score of the frame was struck with 41 seconds remaining before the 10-minute mark. Cammalleri (Pavel Zacha and John Moore) takes credit again, this time with a power play slap shot, to give Jersey a 3-2 lead going into the third frame.

With 14 seconds remaining in regulation, who else than Third Star Sidney Crosby (Bryan Rust and Malkin) to come to the rescue for the Pens? His late wrister leveled the score to force three-on-three overtime, which proved to be scoreless.

The shootout featured a lot of saves. A lot of saves. Pittsburgh took the first attempt…

  1. Malkin opened the shootout to a Keith Kinkaid save.
  2. P.A. Parenteau went next, only to be saved by Matthew Murray.
  3. Crosby? Kinkaid.
  4. Cammalleri? Yup, you guessed it. Murray said “no way.”
  5. Leave it to a defenesman to bury a goal. Kris Letang beats Kinkaid to force a miss-and-lose scenario for New Jersey.
  6. Travis Zajac gave it his best effort, but Murray sealed the Penguins‘ victory.

Murray earned the win after saving 27-of-30 (90%) leaving the shootout loss to Kinkaid, who saved an incredible 46-of-49 (93.9%).

Pittsburgh‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory sets the series record at 26-15-7, favoring the home squads by eight points.