For a Friday, we have quite a few games on the schedule.
Anyways, three games find their start at the usual 7 p.m. (Pittsburgh at the New York Islanders [SN/TVAS], Detroit at Washington and the New York Rangers at Columbus), with Montréal at Carolina (RDS) waiting half an hour before beginning their festivities. This evening’s nightcap is Chicago at Calgary, which drops the puck at 9 p.m. All times eastern.
I know we’ve already featured both these teams this week, but their rivalry game in Brooklyn is the only fixture that really catches my eye.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with this rivalry, I’d like to present you with this:
Total, you just witnessed almost six hours-worth of penalties. Bonus material: one of my favorite hockey bouts, the Rick DiPietro v Brent Johnson scrap they were talking about:
For those unfamiliar with this fight, the right-handed Johnson throws one left hook – one- on DiPietro, and breaks his cheekbone. It goes without saying that these teams have a history of not playing nicely with one another. Whether that plays out in fisticuffs or goals remains to be seen.
After the textbook Penguin-demolition by the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game with a 10-4-2 record. While it wasn’t on display in that game, Pittsburgh‘s strength continues to be their high-flying offense that has lit the lamp 48 times.
Evgeni Malkin has statistically been the lead man of the Penguins‘ offense with 15 points to his credit. That being said, Sidney Crosby has been the one burying most of the goals, scoring 10 goals in as many games played after missing six contests due to his presesason concussion.
The Steel City is home to the fifth-best power play in the league, successful on 23.6% of their attempts. Phil Kessel has been the man in charge on the man-advantage, responsible for nine power play points, including six assists. Patric Hornqvist has been the one completing most of the plays, potting four power play goals.
Just like the Penguins, the last time New York was featured in our Game of the Day series was their last game played – a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Lightning. They have a 5-8-3 record for worst in the Eastern Conference, with most of the responsibility, in my opinion, falling on the defense and goaltending.
The Islanders have allowed 51 goals so far this season, with most of those coming against 3-5-3 Jaroslav Halak. He has a .904 save percentage and 3.09 GAA to his credit, which ranks 15th and 12th-worst among all goalies with six or more appearances.
While his performance has been poor, it could be argued that he’s being worked a little bit more than the average goaltender. OK, a lot more. Be it Halak or Thomas Greiss in net, the Isles allow an average of 31.7 shots against per night, the seventh-highest in the league. Johnny Boychuk continues to deserve credit for his 43 blocks – the second-highest total in the league – but he is the only Islander with more than 40 shot blocks to his credit. While blocks are not always the answer, New York‘s defense needs to improve to limit opposing opportunities in a hurry.
As you might expect, the Isles‘ penalty kill is not exactly admirable either. They’ve negated their own infractions only 79.7% of the time, which ties with Los Angeles for seventh-worst in the league. Part of the reason they haven’t been able to find success is because they’re on the penalty kill more often than they should be. They allow 3.8 opposing power plays per night, well over the league average of 3.2. That extra effort not only exhausts the team for future kills, but also during even-strength play as well.
Part of the reason the offense hasn’t been able to find success is they haven’t capitalized on their best opportunities. New York has scored on only 10.4% of their power plays, the fourth-worst rate in the NHL. Captain John Tavares has three power play points to his credit, but only he and Brock Nelson have more than one point on the man-advantage.
Some players to keep an eye on tonight include New York‘s Dennis Seidenberg (+10 [leads the team]) and Tavares (five goals for 12 points [both lead the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (10 goals [tied for second-most in the league]) and Matthew Murray (.951 save percentage [leads the NHL] for a 1.62 GAA [third-best in the league]).
Vegas has a +138 next to the Islanders, which might be generous. If my estimations are correct, New York‘s chances of earning even a point out of this one are slim. But hey, it is a rivalry game, so anything can happen.
- Jocelyn Lemieux (1967-) – St. Louis selected the right wing 10th overall in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, but he actually spent a majority of his career with the rival Blackhawks. Nowadays he is working for RDS, so keep an eye out for him in the Canadiens–Hurricanes broadcast!
St. Louis held serve at home in yesterday’s Game of the Day, besting San Jose 3-2 on a deciding power play.
The Sharks opened the scoring at the 6:16 mark of the first period with a Logan Couture (Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward) wrister to set the score at 1-0. That lead lasted only 4:22 before First Star of the Game Jaden Schwartz (Alex Pietrangelo) leveled with a wrister of his own. The 1-1 score held into the first intermission.
8:45 after resuming play, Schwartz potted his second goal of the night on another wrist shot, but once again a lead didn’t last long. Kevin Labanc (Joe Thornton and Justin Braun) scored the first goal of his NHL career only 19 seconds later to set the score at 2-2. With 4:04 remaining in the second frame, Second Star David Perron (Third Star Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri) capitalized on a Mikkel Boedker interference penalty to score the eventual game-winner.
Jake Allen earned the victory after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (93.5%), forcing Martin Jones to take the loss, saving 22-of-25 (88%).
The second-straight home victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series sets the record at 23-12-4, favoring the home squads by a dozen points over the roadies.