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.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Game 3 was a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks after losing two games at home to the San Jose Sharks. The embarrassing 8-1 lost showed a tale of two California teams–one finally moving beyond the team helmed by Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton for the past decade and the other desperate to relive their past glory from 2007. The team that has moved on from its past appears to be the team that will move on to Round 2, while the team trying to relive its past is learning a hard lesson–the NHL is not the same as it was in 2007.
When the Ducks brought back Randy Carlyle, the thought was that his discipline was what was needed to get the team to the next level. If this is what discipline looks like, I’d hate to see what anarchy would look like for this team. 10 penalties, including four from Captain Ryan Getzlaf (including a misconduct), who should know better.
The Sharks breakaway speed has been a problem for the Ducks the entire series, and it was again in Game 3. The Sharks started to break it open in the second period when two quick goals gave them a 3-1 lead. The first of those two goals was scored by Joonas Donskoi on a nice feed from, who else, Evander Kane and the second saw Donskoi setting up Marcus Sorensen on another breakaway. It went downhill from there as John Gibson couldn’t bail out the Ducks and the score was 5-1 by the time the third period began, leading to the Ducks going to Ryan Miller in desperation. It didn’t matter, despite a solid season, Miller would give up 3 goals in the third period.
I don’t know if the Sharks are good enough for Buffalo to get that first round pick from the Kane deal, but it is clear that Kane fits right in on the team. The Sharks don’t appear to be missing either Marleau or Thornton. Without Jumbo out there, they are able to take advantage of their speed against a team like the Ducks. This is the way hockey is played in 2018.
The Ducks, on the other hand, are playing with a team built literally and figuratively for 2007. Francois Beauchemin. Jason Chimera. Ryan Kesler. Miller. This doesn’t even include some of the guys not currently playing for the Ducks such as Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly. Beauchemin played nearly 20 minutes, so its not as if he was a rarely-used third pairing defenseman.
Some of that was certainly the result of injuries. But the Ducks, in general, need to do what San Jose has done this year and start moving on from the past. This isn’t Getzlaf and Corey Perry‘s team any more than the 2007 Ducks were Teemu Selanne‘s team–its Rickard Rakell‘s team. Its Jakob Silfverberg‘s team. Its Ondrej Kase‘s team. Yes, Perry and Getzlaf will continue to be important, but their role should be a supporting role the way Selanne’s role was when he returned to Anaheim. This is a young man’s league and you can’t build a team in this league around a core of 30-somethings.
You also can’t build the team the Ducks need to build with Carlyle at the helm. Bob Murray needs to learn from the mistakes of his mentor, Brian Burke. When Burke got nostalgic and brought in Todd Bertuzzi, he messed with the chemistry he had created in Anaheim. Murray needs to abandon nostalgia and build around youth and speed with Perry and Getzlaf there to provide just enough grit and physicality to balance things.
The Ducks will have at least one more game in 2017-18. Hopefully it is the end of an era and the beginning of a bright future. They have the young players and prospects to do it, but they need to have faith to hand the team over to them.
As for the Sharks, it is going to be fun to see what this team can do in the rest of the post-season, particularly as the next round is shaping up to be against the team with the Midas Touch, the Vegas Golden Knights.
The San Jose Sharks had a night of firsts on Monday at SAP Center. Eight different goal scorers contributed to the most goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history for the Sharks as San Jose beat the Anaheim Ducks, 8-1.
As a result of the win, the Sharks can sweep the Ducks Wednesday night on home ice.
Martin Jones had 45 saves on 46 shots against for a .978 save percentage in the win— setting a franchise playoff record for most saves in a regulation game— while Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson, made 19 saves on 24 shots against for a .792 SV% in 39:43 time on ice in the loss. Ducks backup goaltender, Ryan Miller, made nine saves on 12 shots faced for a .750 SV% in relief for Gibson.
San Jose didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard as Logan Couture (2) picked up his 2nd of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs just 3:44 into the first period on a follow up chance. Mikkel Boedker (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Sharks led 1-0.
Just past the halfway point of the first period, Ryan Getzlaf jumpstarted a deep rut to the penalty box for the Ducks all night by being penalized for holding Sharks forward, Joonas Donskoi. The Sharks were unable to convert on their first power play of the night.
Instead, Timo Meier was penalized for hooking Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg shortly after San Jose’s man advantage ended. As such, the Ducks went on the power play and promptly capitalized about a minute later with Rickard Rakell (1) scoring a power play goal to tie the game, 1-1.
Brandon Montour (1) and Getzlaf (2) had the assists on Rakell’s game-tying goal at 13:40 of the first period.
After 20 minutes of play, the score was 1-1 with Anaheim outshooting San Jose, 11-8. The Ducks also led in hits (24-8) and faceoff win percentage (63-37). Meanwhile, the Sharks had a 5-4 advantage in blocked shots and led in takeaways (6-0), as well as giveaways (3-2) through one frame. Anaheim was 1/1 on the power play in the first period and San Jose was 0/1 on the man advantage.
The second period opened similar to the first period in that San Jose scored early.
Joonas Donskoi (1) passed the puck to Evander Kane who flipped it back to Donskoi for the shot on net and the Sharks went ahead, 2-1. Kane (1) had the only assist on the goal at 1:15 of the second period.
Almost two minutes later, Marcus Sorensen (2) received a pass from Donskoi on a quick transition, deked and scored on Gibson to make it 3-1 San Jose. Donskoi (1) was credited with the assist on Sorensen’s goal at 3:41 of the second period.
Then things settled in for about ten minutes until Eric Fehr (1) got the puck on his stick around center ice, brought it into the offensive zone with great hands, deked past Anaheim’s defense and made it 4-1 for the Sharks. Sorensen (1) and Melker Karlsson (2) notched the assists on the goal at 13:43 of the period.
Less than a minute later, Ducks forward, Nick Ritchie received two penalties after the whistle— a minor for slashing San Jose’s captain, Joe Pavelski, and another minor penalty for roughing against Pavelski. Sharks defenseman, Dylan DeMelo, picked up a roughing minor against Ducks defenseman Derek Grant.
All of the penalties came at 14:28 of the second period with the Sharks ending up on a 5-on-4 power play, until Ducks defenseman, Francois Beauchemin, slashed Logan Couture about a minute later.
San Jose called a timeout before taking advantage of their 5-on-3 power play at 15:59.
It only took Tomas Hertl (2) 50 seconds to score on the two-man advantage, giving the Sharks a four-goal lead, 5-1, at 16:49. Pavelski (4) and Couture (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Hertl’s power play goal.
With 40 minutes in the books, San Jose led, 5-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed, 30-24, in shots on goal to the Ducks. Blocked shots were even at 10-10, while Anaheim led in hits (34-18). The Sharks led in takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (8-5) after two periods and were 1/3 on the power play. Meanwhile, Anaheim did not see any power play time in the second period and was still 1/1 on the man advantage.
Seeing as they were already losing, 5-1, Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle figured he might as well throw his backup goaltender to the fire and Ryan Miller replaced John Gibson in goal to start the third period.
Sorensen was assessed a minor penalty for holding Marcus Pettersson 5:09 into the third period, but the Ducks were unable to get anything past Jones on the ensuing power play.
Then things only continued to worsen for Anaheim.
Ryan Getzlaf was clearly disinterested by the time the third period rolled around and he let it be known in his undisciplined effort, amassing a slashing penalty and a roughing penalty at 7:22 of the third period. San Jose then went on a four-minute power play and was sure to take advantage of their special teams play.
Pavelski (1) had the puck on his stick with time ticking down on the Sharks power play and beat Miller clean through the five-hole to make it 6-1, San Jose. Meier (2) and Donskoi (2) had the assists on the goal that upped San Jose’s lead from four to five.
After Getzlaf lost his mind, Corey Perry went off and cross-checked everything in sight (that’s a bit of an exaggeration, he only cross checked Kevin Labanc and was sent to the penalty box). Speaking of Getzlaf, he must have said something that a ref didn’t like because as Perry was being assessed his minor penalty at 11:12 of the third period, Getzlaf picked up a 10-minute misconduct, ending his night at SAP Center.
San Jose did not score on the ensuing man advantage.
Eric Fehr tripped Perry moments later and was sent to the sin bin, but the Ducks were not able to convert on the man advantage.
Moments later, Ryan Kesler slashed Sharks blue liner, Paul Martin, and didn’t get to sit for too long in the box as Evander Kane (3) redirected a shot on goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give San Jose a 7-1 lead with yet another power play goal. Vlasic (1) and Couture (3) assisted on Kane’s goal at 17:16 of the third period.
At 19:24 of the third period, Brandon Montour slashed Fehr and the Sharks converted on yet another power play 12 seconds later to make it 8-1.
Timo Meier (1) pocketed the goal after Chris Tierney fired off a shot while falling. Tierney (1) and Labanc (2) had the assists on what was a franchise playoff record 8th goal of the game for San Jose at 19:36 of the period.
Despite being outhit 43-24 and outshot 46-36 by the Ducks, the San Jose Sharks emerged victorious with a power play that went 3/7 on the night compared to Anaheim’s 1/3 on the man advantage.
At the final horn, San Jose had defeated Anaheim, 8-1, and as a result now has a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 at SAP Center. The Sharks have outscored the Ducks 13-3 through three games into the series and can sweep Anaheim at home on Wednesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 10:30 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the respective local markets can tune in on GOLF channel in the United States and SN1 and/or TVAS2 in Canada.
I’ve seen many Ducks-Sharks playoff matchups through the years, but this one might prove to be different. This year the Sharks are without Patrick Marleau, now in Toronto. Joe Thornton is out with an injury. Their big trade deadline acquisition was a guy portrayed (rightly or wrongly) as a locker room cancer.
The Ducks came into the playoffs a hot team after struggling with injuries early in the season. Ryan Getzlaf put up over a point a game on the season, albeit after missing substantial time to injury. Both John Gibson and Ryan Miller put up solid numbers on the season with save percentages over .920. Despite trading Sami Vatanen, the Ducks still boast a solid defense.
Despite all of that, the Ducks managed to give up home ice and look pretty lackluster doing it. In the first period, the Ducks seemed to have problems with the Sharks speed. Neither team’s power play could come up big despite opportunities. The Ducks only managed 4 shots prior to the first intermission.
Things would get decidedly worse for Anaheim in the second frame. With nearly 7 minutes gone in the period and the Sharks already outshooting the Ducks 15 to 7, the Ducks took two ill-advised penalties to give San Jose a 5-on-3. Before the PA announcer could finish telling the crowd about the second penalty, Evander Kane had put the Sharks up 1-0 on a beautiful feed by Pavelski.
Pavelski would make another solid pass to Kane that led to the second goal for the Sharks. Less than a minute later, Brent Burns would put the game away with a snap shot through traffic to put the Sharks up 3-0. The score would hold through the third period, despite the Ducks out-shooting the Sharks 12-9.
Evander Kane looks like a guy trying to prove something. This is a point made by several of us on the DTFR playoff podcast. Randy Carlyle did nothing to contradict my hypothesis that the game has passed him by and the Ducks now find themselves down 1-0 and needing to win at least one game in the Shark Tank to win this series. One bright spot for the Ducks was Gibson, who had a solid performance despite the loss.
If the Ducks are going to even up the series, they really need to stay out of the penalty box. What is a bigger concern is how much the Ducks seemed to struggle with the Sharks’ speed. Relying on Francois Beauchemin to play 20 plus minutes is probably not helping in this respect, something necessitated as a result of injuries and the trade of Vatanen earlier this season. It is possible the Ducks get Kevin Bieksa back, but it is also hard to see how a lumbering 38-year old is going to do any better against the Sharks’ quick forwards. Somehow the Ducks are going to have to find an answer before Saturday or they’ll find themselves headed to San Jose down 2-0.
In a first, everyone (except for Jordan) appears on the Down the Frozen River Podcast to predict how the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go before the 2017-18 NHL regular season even ends, technically speaking. The 100th episode anniversary is informally observed.
The penultimate weekend of the regular season is upon us! There’s not much time left before the greatest postseason in sports can begin!
The night gets started with three games (Toronto at the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [NHLN/SN/TVAS] and Carolina at Washington) at 7 p.m., but Chicago at Colorado waits until 9 p.m. before getting underway. Next up is Los Angeles at Anaheim (SN1) at 10 p.m., followed by St. Louis at Vegas half an hour later to close out the evening. All times Eastern.
After the transactions at this year’s trade deadline, the Bolts’ visit to Madison Square Garden will be a fun game to see considering D Dan Girardi, D Ryan McDonagh and F J.T. Miller are going to be making their first appearance in front of their former home fans.
However, nothing can keep us away from Orange County this evening and witnessing a pivotal Freeway Face-Off.
In the spirit of Opening Day taking place yesterday, the second half of March has been very, very good to the 39-25-13 Ducks. Anaheim has posted an impressive 5-1-1 record since March 14, and it’s all been because of some stellar play on the defensive end.
Whether it’s been the solid play of D Cam Fowler (2.4 blocks per game since March 14), C Ryan Getzlaf (11 takeaways in his last six games played) or D Josh Manson (3.6 hits per game in his last five outings), Anaheim’s defense has made it very tough on its opposition to find any sort of offensive rhythm. During this seven-game run, the Ducks have allowed only 30.29 shots against per game – the 10th-best average in the league since March 14.
With the only possible exception being Head Coach Randy Carlyle, no one is happier about that statistic than 30-18-7 G John Gibson, tonight’s projected starter who has been the only goaltender Anaheim has used during this seven-game run. Gibson has certainly earned his spot in the crease lately, as he’s posted a .934 save percentage and 1.99 GAA to improve his season marks to a .925 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.
After paring the Ducks’ solid defense with some stellar play from Gibson, Anaheim has allowed only 2.14 goals per game since March 14, the fifth-best mark in the NHL in that time.
Of course, Anaheim is not the only squad playing well at the right time of year, as the 43-28-7 Kings are also enjoying a nice run of success right now with a 4-1-1 record over their past six showings.
To continue the similarities, Los Angeles is finding success lately in exactly the same way as Anaheim: behind some stellar defense. Behind the impressive efforts of D Derek Forbort (3.5 blocks per game since March 19), C Anze Kopitar (averaging a takeaway per game in his past six outings) and D Dion Phaneuf (2.7 hits per game during this run), Los Angeles has allowed only 27.83 shots against per game since March 19, the fourth-lowest mark in the NHL in that time.
As would be expected from a goaltender like 31-27-2 Jonathan Quick, he has absolutely relished the play of his skaters and made full use of their excellent effort. In his last four starts, Quick has posted a solid .934 save percentage and 1.73 GAA, both of which are much better than the .923 save percentage and 2.38 GAA he’s managed for the entire regular season.
Quick was intentionally saved for tonight’s game against the Ducks, as it was 2-0-2 G Jack Campbell in action last night in the Kings’ 4-2 victory over the Coyotes. Campbell did his job in earning the victory last night, so now it’s up to Quick to hold up his end of the deal and beat the opponent with much more to play for.
Speaking of the Kings’ win last night against Arizona, Los Angeles has created a slight separation of two points between it and its southeastern neighbor. However, it is that very game that also plays to the Kings’ detriment, as a regulation win by the Ducks tonight propels them into third place in the Pacific Division considering their game in hand on Los Angeles.
Even though the Ducks and Kings have split their four meetings in terms of wins, Anaheim has certainly had the upper hand on its Southern Californian counterparts so far this season by forcing overtime in its two losses.
These clubs first met on November 7 at Honda Center in Anaheim, but it was the Kings that earned the 4-3 overtime victory (C Nick Shore – now a member of the Flames – scored the game-winner). A similar result occurred a few weeks later on November 25, as Los Angeles successfully defended home ice with a 2-1 shootout win (Quick earned First Star honors with a 25-save performance).
However, the tides have turned in favor of Anaheim in their two more recent meetings. The Ducks took another trip up I-5 on January 13, this time finding a 4-2 victory in Tinseltown (W Ondrej Kase dominated the game with 2-1-3 totals), followed only six days later by a narrow 2-1 home win (all three goals were struck in the third period, but F Ryan Kesler scored the final – and game-winning – marker).
The Ducks have the luxury of playing on The Pond with two night’s rest as compared to Los Angeles playing last night. This result might just boil down to those facts, as neither defense nor goaltender is going to yield very much this evening. It might be a close one, but I think Anaheim can earn two points tonight.
With a 4-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins have taken a one-point lead in the Eastern Conference.
Though it looks like the Bruins dominated the first period based on the scoreboard reading 2-0 during the first intermission, Boston didn’t register its opening markers until the final minute of the frame. F Tim Schaller (F Tommy Wingels) took credit for the ice-breaker with 58 ticks remaining in the period, followed only 32 seconds later by Third Star of the Game RW David Pastrnak (D Torey Krug and Second Star C Patrice Bergeron) scoring a power play deflection.
In terms of game time, Boston’s two-goal lasted only 2:10 before Miller (RW Nikita Kucherov and D Victor Hedman) pulled the Bolts back within a goal with a power play deflection 1:44 into the second period. The Lightning had their fist around a penalty-laden second frame (eight different infractions were recorded between the intermission), as they allowed only three Boston shots to reach G Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That 2-1 score lasted throughout the second frame, as well as over half the third. However, Bergeron’s (Krug and LW Brad Marchand) wrist shot with 8:01 remaining in regulation during four-on-four play returned the two-goal advantage to the Bruins and proved to be the game-winner.
What a slick play this tally proved to be. Bergeron actually started the play along the right boards with the puck on his stick, dumping it into the trapezoid to Marchand. Upon collecting Bergeron’s pass, Marchand slid above the goal line to Vasilevskiy’s right, but instead of firing a quick shot, instead dished to Krug in the high slot to the netminder’s glove side. Once again a player would be within his rights to fire a shot, but Krug’s unselfishness led to him returning a backhanded pass across the slot. However, instead of Marchand being in that position, it was Bergeron, who had drifted behind the net from his original spot along the boards and was now near the left goal post. With Vasilevskiy leaning towards his glove side to stop any Krug offering, Bergeron had a gaping net to fire his wrister into.
Tampa still had a lot of fight left in it, as proven by Hedman (F Yanni Gourde and Girardi) scoring his 15th goal of the season to pull the Bolts back within a score, but Marchand’s (Bergeron and Pastrnak) backhanded shot on an empty net with 56 seconds remaining in the game ended any chance of Tampa Bay leveling the game.
First Star G Tuukka Rask earned the victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (.929 save percentage), leaving the loss to Vasilevskiy, who saved 26-of-29 (.897).
There’s some serious perks to being the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day lately, as the 96-53-21 hosts have rattled off a six-game winning streak that’s made only better by earning points in eight-straight tilts. Home teams in the series now have a 43-point lead on the visitors.
Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.
Thursdays in the NHL never disappoint, as there’s a whopping 12 games on the slate this evening!
Like most nights, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. this evening with three games (Philadelphia at Boston [NHLN/SN], Winnipeg at New Jersey and Colorado at Columbus), followed half an hour later by four more (Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS2], Vegas at Detroit, the New York Rangers at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Montréal at Florida [RDS]). Next up is Anaheim at Nashville, which drops the puck at 8 p.m. and is trailed half an hour later by Carolina at Chicago and the New York Islanders at Edmonton at 9 p.m. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – Washington at Los Angeles (SN) and St. Louis at San Jose – drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close the evening out. All times Eastern.
More than a few of tonight’s games were circled on my calendar at the start of the year, including…
- Philadelphia at Boston: The Flyers are playing their second rivalry game in as many days, traveling into snow-covered Boston.
- Buffalo at Ottawa: The Sabres and Senators enjoyed a healthy rivalry in the mid-2000s. Let’s see if it gets revived tonight.
- Vegas at Detroit: After spending his first seven seasons in Hockeytown, F Tomas Tatar is making his return with the Golden Knights tonight.
- New York at Tampa Bay: Another deadline deal sent F Vladislav Namestnikov from Tampa – where he’s spent the first five seasons of his NHL career – to the Rangers.
- Anaheim at Nashville: If playoff rematches get you excited, this is the game for you. The Predators beat the Ducks in six games last May.
- Carolina at Chicago: G Scott Darling and D Trevor van Riemsdyk were both Blackhawks last season, but tonight they’ll be wearing white at United Center.
- New York at Edmonton: D Brandon Davidson and RW Jordan Eberle swapped in their blue-and-orange Oilers sweaters for blue-and-orange Islanders sweaters.
What a selection of games! However, only one can be our focus tonight. Since the postseason is just around the corner, let’s look back to the Ducks and Predators’ playoff matchup from a season ago just in case it gets repeated this year.
If you’ll remember, Bridgestone Arena was an impassable fortress in favor of the Predators last postseason. They won both home games in the first round to complete their sweep of the Blackhawks and followed it up with three more wins – including the series-clinching Game 6 – against St. Louis to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Then Anaheim showed up and spoiled the fun.
Though they’d surely heard the
whispers roars about The Stone, the Ducks didn’t seem too daunted by one of the most impressive home ice advantages in recent memory. Having split the opening two games at Honda Center, the Ducks and Predators played a tight Game 3 to a 2-1 Nashville victory that saw D Roman Josi score the game-winner with 2:43 remaining in regulation, setting up an extremely important Game 4.
In that tilt, Anaheim survive a two-goal third period comeback (capped by F Filip Forsberg‘s game-tying marker with 36 seconds remaining in regulation) by Nashville that eventually led to a W Corey Perry overtime goal that snapped Nashville’s home winning streak and leveled the series at two games apiece.
A home loss like that can take the legs out from under a team, or it can reignite the fire in their competitive drive. It did the latter for the Predators in the conference final, as they headed back west to win 3-1 in Anaheim and pull within a victory of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Home ice didn’t disappoint for the Predators in Game 6, as they cruised to a 6-3 victory on the back of a C Colton Sissons hat trick.
That dominance that got 43-14-9 Smashville to the championship round a season ago is in full swing right now, as the Predators are currently riding an impressive nine-game winning streak.
It’s hard to argue with the offense Nashville has been exhibiting during this winning streak. Since February 19, the Predators have averaged a whopping 4.33 goals per game, the best mark in the NHL.
Managing 6-6-12 marks over this run to improve his season totals to 24-25-49, W Viktor Arvidsson has been a major part of this Nashville attack. However, he’s also had the support of the injured Josi (1-11-12 totals in his last six games played) and D Ryan Ellis (3-8-11 since February 19), as all three are currently averaging at least a point per game.
It is here where we find the dominance of the Predators, as only three of Ellis’ last 12 points have coincided with Arvidsson getting on the scorecard, meaning these two players have played in a combined 21 goals in the past nine games.
Talk about the entire team getting involved on the offensive attack.
Of course, all those goals do no good if the opposition can keep up on the scoreboard. Fortunately for Nashville, it has 36-9-4 G Pekka Rinne at its disposal.
Even though he’s been faced with an average of 32 shots per game during this run (16th in the NHL since February 19), Rinne has performed phenomenally to keep opposing offenses under his thumb. The Finn has posted an incredible .942 save percentage and 1.86 GAA in his last seven starts, improving his season marks to a .928 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.
However, Nashville is not the only team in tonight’s game currently riding a win streak. The 34-21-12 Ducks are rolling too, as they’ve won their last three games and have earned points in four-straight.
Just like with the Preds’ winning streak, Anaheim’s has also been sparked by some stellar offense. In all, seven players have averaged at least a point per game since February 25 – none of which have been better than C Ryan Getzlaf, who’s posted unbelievable 1-8-9 totals in his last three games played (he missed Friday’s win over the Blue Jackets due to illness) to average three points per game during this run. Linemate F Rickard Rakell has also been exemplary lately, as his 6-2-8 totals average out to two points per game in his last four showings.
In all, the 4.75 goals per game Anaheim has averaged since February 25 is tops in the NHL in that time.
The similarities between tonight’s opponents continues when we look towards the goal crease, as 25-15-6 G John Gibson has been in peak form in his last three starts. Since last Sunday, Gibson has posted an incredible .955 save percentage for a 1.67 GAA in spite of a defense that has allowed a dismal 38.5 shots against per game (third-worst in the NHL since February 25), improving his season marks to a .927 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.
Even though the Ducks will be in action again tomorrow night in Dallas, it has to be all but assured that Head Coach Randy Carlyle will deploy his best netminder against the best team in the Western Conference and save 8-5-6 G Ryan Miller for the Stars.
Much to the pleasure of the Ducks, who have yet to beat Nashville this season, tonight’s matchup is the finale of the three-game series between these clubs. Their first meeting was on November 3 at Honda Center, where the Preds won 5-3 in large part due to Josi’s one-goal, two-point night. Smashville followed up that victory with a much more competitive 3-2 shootout win at Bridgestone Arena, the site of tonight’s game, on December 2 (W Kevin Fiala took First Star honors).
With the top seed in the Western Conference (and therefore the Central Division) currently in their grasp, there is only one thing left for the Predators to compete for: the Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville’s 95 points are only one point fewer than Tampa’s, and the Preds have a game in hand. In other words, hold off on inscribing this year’s regular-season champion into the record books.
The Ducks could care less about a trophy they’ve never seen, as their sole focus is on holding on to second place in the Pacific Division. Four teams (Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Calgary) are competing for two division spots and are separated by only four points entering tonight’s action, and the Ducks have no wiggle room given the Sharks and Kings both have a game in hand on the team from Orange County.
This preview started with a recap about home dominance, and I think that’s where the preview must also end. Though the Ducks have been playing well lately – well enough, in fact, to upset many good teams in their own barns – Smashville is an entirely different animal. With their fans behind them, the Predators will simply be too strong tonight for the Ducks to beat them.
With a three-assist night from First Star of the Game C Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Even though a total of seven goals were struck in this game, only one was registered in the first period. It belonged to RW Phil Kessel (F Evgeni Malkin and Crosby) and was a power play wrist shot with 1:25 remaining in the frame.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, the Flyers pulled back even 2:07 into the second period when Third Star RW Jakub Voracek (F Nolan Patrick) scored a tip-in, followed only 3:52 later by F Travis Konecny (F Claude Giroux and D Andrew MacDonald) setting the score at 2-1 with a wrister.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that was all the offense it could muster, meaning D Jamie Oleksiak‘s (D Justin Schultz and F Jake Guentzel) slap shot at the 9:24 mark leveled the game at 2-2. 5:01 later, Pittsburgh found its game-winner courtesy of Second Star W Conor Sheary (Crosby and Oleksiak).
After Oleksiak slung a pass his way from the left face-off circle in his own zone, Crosby did most of the work setting up a two-on-one advantage while advancing into the Flyers’ zone. The captain fired an initial wrister that G Petr Mrazek blocked, but Sheary was there to collect the rebound and complete the play with a backhanded shot.
The third period ended with a 4-2 score when Sheary (Guentzel and Crosby) scored a wrister 40 seconds before the second intermission. Malkin (LW Carl Hagelin and C Riley Sheahan) completed the game’s scoring with 1:41 remaining in regulation by burying a wrister into an empty net.
G Tristan Jarry earned the victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (.929 save percentage), leaving the loss to Mrazek, who saved 23-of-27 (.852).
Pittsburgh’s road victory snapped a seven-game winning streak by the 81-48-19 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The hosts now have only a 29-point advantage in the series.