Tag Archives: Ron Hainsey

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 13

 

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Bobby Ryan‘s overtime winner, the Senators defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 at PPG Paints Arena Saturday to steal home ice in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ryan was involved in both Senators tallies, as was Jean-Gabriel Pageau – the proud scorer of a wrist shot with 5:28 remaining in the first period. The play was caused when Pageau forced Brian Dumoulin into a giveaway behind Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net. Ryan collected the loose puck and centered a pass to the native Ottawan in the far face-off circle that he was more than able to bury top-shelf.

Though the Senators have been lauded for their defense this postseason, it certainly didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh struggled to find much rhythm offensively for most of the evening. The Pens uncharacteristically gave the puck away a whopping 17 times (Pittsburgh has given the puck away only 109 times this entire postseason, the fewest of the remaining squads), not to mention the 11 times Ottawa intentionally stole the puck.

A lot of that was due to the Sens’ physical play. Led by Marc Methot‘s seven blows, Ottawa threw 32 hits to knock the Penguins off balance. Even when Pittsburgh could manage a shot, the Sens were quick to get in the way, as they blocked an impressive 22 offerings (led by Methot’s four).

And the Penguins’ 28 shots that did manage to reach First Star Craig Anderson? He saved all but one for a .964 save percentage.

But no matter how well a defense and goaltender perform, its tough to keep the mighty Penguins offense off the board. With 5:35 remaining in regulation, Third Star Evgeni Malkin (Chris Kunitz and Ron Hainsey) leveled the game at one-all to give Pittsurgh life. It was a beautiful redirection by Malkin on Kunitz’ initial shot from the near face-off circle to beat Anderson five-hole.

That marker could have rattled the Sens, but they regrouped following regulation to reestablish their dominance. In the 4:59 of extra time, they allowed only two Penguins shots to reach Anderson.

The Senators themselves may have managed only three shots, but their final one ended the game. Assisted by Pageau and Mark Stone, Ryan fended off Bryan Rust in his own defensive zone to set up a breakaway opportunity for himself. Screaming up the near boards, he crossed across the slot to set up a nasty backhander that beat Fleury to the far post.

After a day off, these teams will be right back at it Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern time for Game 2. NBCSN has broadcasting rights withing the 50 United States, while Canada will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 8

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 6

By beating Pittsburgh 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena, the Capitals have forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 for a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Simply put, absolutely nothing was going right for the Penguins. Though the Capitals did throw an impressive 38 hits (led by both Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson‘s five blows), Pittsburgh still should have managed more than 18 shots on goal.

It wasn’t until 7:43 remained in the first period that the Pens managed their first shot on Braden Holtby‘s goal. Unfortunately for them, Third Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Second Star Nicklas Backstrom) was already getting to work on the Capitals’ first goal of the night 24 seconds later, a power play snap shot from the far face-off circle.

Another part of the game the Penguins struggled at was keeping the puck away from Washington. They committed a combined 11 giveaways, the most egregious of which was Ron Hainsey‘s at the 6:32 mark of the second period.

Though it doesn’t go down as a turnover because First Star Andre Burakovsky dislodged the puck with a hit along the far boards, Hainsey brought the contact on himself. At the tail end of what proved to be a long 76-second shift, he tried to maintain possession for his club instead of chip the puck out of the defensive zone, turning back towards Marc-Andre Fleury‘s goal. Burakovsky took advantage of the exhausted defenseman to squeeze a wrist shot between Fleury and the far post to double the Caps’ lead.

But not all of Washington’s goals were results of Penguins mistakes. The game-winner certainly qualifies as one of those, as Backstrom (Oshie and Dmitry Orlov) won the third frame’s opening face-off to bury a snapper only 16 seconds later to set the score at 3-0.

John Carlson (Matt Niskanen and Kuznetsov) and Burakovsky tacked on two more goals within 1:12 of one another to set up a comfortable five-goal advantage for the visiting Caps, more than enough to survive Jake Guentzel (Sidney Crosby) and Evgeni Malkin‘s (Conor Sheary and Brian Dumoulin) two-goal surge in the remaining 3:22 of regulation.

The series’ deciding game has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 10. American viewers can catch the game on NBCSN, while Canadian hockey fans will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 20

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens— Game 5

By: Connor Keith

With the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime victory against Montréal at the Bell Centre Thursday, they are only one victory away from advancing to the next round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though the first frame didn’t end scoreless, the battle between two high-caliber goaltenders was immediately apparent. Montréal fired 15 shots at Third Star of the Game Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price faced 10 from the Blueshirts, but only three got past: Montréal exited the first period leading 2-1 thanks to a Artturi Lehkonen (Nathan Beaulieu and Alex Galchenyuk) wrap-around and a power play wrist shot by Second Star Brendan Gallagher (Andrei Markov and Lehkonen).

The Rangers haven’t been able to convert a single man-advantage all series against Price, so it only makes sense that they then leveled the game at one-all with 4:04 remaining in the first period while short-handed courtesy of Jesper Fast (First Star Mika Zibanejad). The Swedish center advanced the puck along the far boards through the neutral zone and across the blue line before splitting Beaulieu and Jeff Petry with a centering pass to his countryman for a wrister from the slot. The tied game lasted only 25 seconds before Gallagher buried his wrister, but the fact that it was the Canadiens’ last tally of the game came to haunt them.

It seemed Fast’s shorthanded effort at the end of the period took all the energy out of the Rangers, as they played terribly for most of the second period. They played defense for most of the frame – including killing two penalties (Ryan McDonagh for slashing and Mats Zuccarello for hi-sticking) – and gave the puck away twice as often as the Habs. To top it off, they were also out-hit by a wide margin, led by Steve Ott’s game-total of eight blows.

That’s what makes it so unbelievable that they exited the frame tied two-all with Montréal. Alain Vigneault inspired his squad to give him three good minutes at the end of the second period, and it yielded Brady Skjei’s (Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey) wrister from the slot, New York’s second game-tying goal of the contest.

A goal can do a lot for a club, made evident by the Rangers holding the Habs without a shot on goal until 9:49 remained in the third period. Only five shots per team could be managed in that back-and-forth frame, and Lundqvist and Price kept all of them from crossing their goal lines to force the second-straight overtime match at the Bell Centre.

If Claude Julien did nothing else during the intermission following regulation, he should have reminded his squad that the Rangers know how to play on the road. Away from Madison Square Garden, New York was an impressive 27-12-2 during the regular season and it notched another victory thanks to Zibanejad’s (Chris Kreider) wrister with 5:38 remaining in the first overtime period.

Kreider took control of the puck at the near point of his defensive zone and quickly advanced up the boards into the attacking third. He didn’t have to do anything special with his pass, but it ended up being one of the best centering passes of the series with just the right pace to allow Zibanejad to one-touch the puck past Price’s glove for the Blueshirts’ third victory of the playoffs.

The Rangers’ first chance to clinch a spot in the Eastern Semifinals will come about Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern time on home ice at Madison Square Garden. United States residents can watch the game on NBC, while Canadians will be serviced by CBC and TVAS.

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Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins— Game 5

The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 5-2 victory and eliminated Columbus on home ice at PPG Paints Arena in five games. Marc-Andre Fleury made 49 saves out of 51 shots against for a .961 save percentage in the win, while Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped just 27 out of 32 shots faced for an .844 SV% in the loss.

Phil Kessel (2) kicked off scoring in Game 5 with a power play goal almost halfway into the 1st period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Kessel’s spectacular wrist shot beat Bobrovsky high on the short side.

Bryan Rust (4) made it a 2-0 game just 67 seconds into the 2nd period scoring on a rebound with the backhand past Bobrovsky. Kessel (6) and Evgeni Malkin (9) picked up the assists on the goal.

Almost three minutes later, Rust (5) added his second goal of the night. Ron Hainsey (2) had the only assist on the goal at 3:50 of the 2nd period.

Just like that the Penguins were up 3-0 and it seemed like they were in the clear, until Columbus’s William Karlsson (2) put the Blue Jackets on the scoreboard and made the game just a little bit closer. Karlsson’s goal cut the lead to two and was assisted by Sam Gagner (2) at 9:30 of the 2nd period.

Boone Jenner (2) swatted the puck out of mid air and past Fleury on a power play to make it a one goal game at 12:24 of the 2nd period. Seth Jones (2) and Cam Atkinson (1) notched the assists on Jenner’s goal and Columbus trailed the Penguins 3-2 heading into the 2nd intermission.

After Alexander Wennberg was sent to the penalty box for goaltender interference, Pittsburgh’s superstar center, Sidney Crosby (2) made Columbus pay with a power play goal that made it 4-2 Pittsburgh at 5:31 of the 3rd period. Malkin (10) notched his 2nd assist of the night and Kessel (7) picked up his third point of the game (one goal, two assists) on Crosby’s insurance goal.

Scott Wilson (1) followed suit with a goal of his own to make it a three-goal game on a no look shot off a rebound about a minute after Crosby’s goal. Trevor Daley (1) and Conor Sheary (2) amassed the assists on Wilson’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Wilson’s goal made it 5-2 in favor of the Penguins at 6:22 of the 3rd.

As the seconds counted down in Pittsburgh, so did the lifespan of the ice in Columbus. With the 5-2 victory firmly sealed after the final horn, the Pittsburgh Penguins had eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games, winning the series 4-1.

The Penguins are the 2nd team to advance to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the winner of the Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs series.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators— Game 4

For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators have swept a Stanley Cup Playoff series, having defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-1, in Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.

Chicago hadn’t been swept since their 1993 Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the St. Louis Blues, which, interestingly enough was also the last time a team with the best record in their conference was swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne stopped 30 out of the 31 shots he faced for a .968 save percentage in the win, while Blackhawks goaltender, Corey Crawford made 22 saves on 25 shots against for an .880 SV% in the loss.

Roman Josi (1) scored the game’s first goal (and his first of the postseason) 9:41 into the 2nd period. Ryan Ellis (2) and Ryan Johansen (5) were credited with the assists on the goal that made it 1-0 Nashville.

Colton Sissons (2) scored what would become the game winning goal almost halfway into the 3rd period. Viktor Arvidsson (2) and Ellis (3) tabbed the assists on the goal.

Less than two minutes later, Josi (2) scored his 2nd goal of the game on a pass from Sissons (1) and made it a 3-0 game for the Predators. Austin Watson (1) had the secondary assist on Josi’s goal.

The Blackhawks finally answered with a goal of their own on a power play as Jonathan Toews (1) collected his 40th career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and first of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Artemi Panarin (1) and Patrick Kane (1) were credited with the assists on the goal that cut the lead to 3-1. Yet it was too little, too late for Chicago.

With Crawford on the bench and an extra skater on the ice for the Blackhawks, P.K. Subban freed the puck from his own zone and sent it to Filip Forsberg. Forsberg found Arvidsson in the clear and with a direct shot at the empty net.

Arvidsson (2) tacked on the empty net goal for Nashville at 18:12 of the 3rd period. Forsberg (3) and Subban (2) collected the assists as the Predators went on to win 4-1.

Nashville advances to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they await to face the winner of the Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues series. The Predators are just the third team to punch their ticket to Round Two (and second team to do so on Thursday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier in the evening).

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San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers— Game 5

It only took almost a full overtime period and nearly 15 shots on goal within that time span, but David Desharnais found the back of the net for the Edmonton Oilers who completed a comeback and defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on home ice at Rexall Place on Thursday night.

Oilers goaltender, Cam Talbot, made 27 saves on 30 shots faced for a .900 save percentage in the win, while San Jose goalie, Martin Jones stopped 44 out of 48 shots against for a .917 SV% in the loss.

Patrick Maroon (1) struck first for the Oilers on a rebound to make it 1-0 Edmonton 5:28 into the opening frame. Matt Benning (1) had the only assist on the goal.

Mikkel Boedker (1) fired a shot past Talbot just past halfway in the 1st period to tie the game, 1-1. Chris Tierney (1) and Marcus Sorensen (1) had the assists on the tic-tac-goal setup.

After Joe Thornton’s shot initially broke through Edmonton’s goaltender, Cam Talbot, Patrick Marleau (2) finished the job by crashing the net and sending the loose puck home to the back of the twine to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Thornton (2) and Brendan Dillon (1) were given the assists on Marleau’s 2nd of the series.

David Schlemko (2) found the back of the net for the second consecutive game in the series to put San Jose up 3-1 on a long range wrist shot. The assists went to Boedker (1) and Joel Ward (3) on Schlemko’s goal at 8:38 of the 2nd period.

Not to be outdone, Edmonton blue liner, Mark Letestu (1) snuck in from the point on a power play opportunity to receive a pass from Leon Draisaitl and buried the puck behind Jones. Letestu’s goal cut the lead to one at 18:33 of the 2nd period and was assisted by Draisaitl (1) and Connor McDavid (2).

Entering the 3rd period, 3-2, the Oilers were hungry for more, while the Sharks were hoping to hold on and steal another game on the road.

Oscar Klefbom (2) received a pass from Desharnais and wired a slap shot past Jones with 2:46 to go in regulation to tie the game, 3-3. Desharnais (1) and Benning (2) were credited with the assists on the game-tying goal.

After 60 minutes the Oilers were outshooting the Sharks 34-28, outhitting the Sharks 30-15 and were 1/3 on the power play, compared to San Jose’s 0/1 on the man advantage. But 60 minutes were not enough for there to be a regulation winner in Game 5, and thus sudden death overtime was necessary.

Three colossal saves on three separate rushes by the Oilers were made by Jones before the 10-minute mark in overtime. Jones denied excellent rushes from Edmonton’s best in Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid in a span of minutes.

While the action was tilted on one end of the ice, Thornton recorded the first shot on goal in overtime for San Jose with a wrist shot at 9:37 of the overtime period. Edmonton had already amassed 10 shots on net by then.

With less than two minutes to go in overtime, David Desharnais (1) tipped a shot past Jones to complete the comeback and for his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Draisaitl (2) and Andrej Sekera (1) had the assists on the game-winning overtime goal at 18:15.

The Edmonton Oilers took Game 5 by a score of 4-3 and now lead the series 3-2. Edmonton looks to close things out on the road in San Jose on Saturday in Game 6. American viewers can tune in to NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET and Canadian fans can watch on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 18

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise – is Nick Lanciani.

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Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers— Game 4

For the first time in the last seven home playoff games, the New York Rangers won at Madison Square Garden. Tuesday night’s victory was a 2-1 triumphant win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens and tied the series with the Habs, 2-2. Rick Nash recorded just his second career game winning goal in his 69th Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.

Henrik Lundqvist had 23 saves on 24 shots against for a .958 save percentage in the win for New York, while Carey Price made 30 saves on 32 shots against for a .938 SV% in the loss for the Canadiens.

After struggling to score until it was too late in Game 3, New York struck first in Game 4 on home ice. Jesper Fast (1) notched his first of the 2017 postseason on an unassisted goal at 11:39 of the 1st period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

Almost seven minutes later, Canadiens forward, Torrey Mitchell (1) fired one past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist as Montreal caught New York on a poorly executed line change. Shea Weber (2) and Alexander Radulov (4) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on the goal that tied the game, 1-1 at 18:37 of the 1st period.

Nash (2) continued to show his impressive hands in the series with his backhand-through-the-five-hole goal that would become the eventual game winning goal at 4:28 of the 2nd period. Ryan McDonagh (2) recorded the sole assist on Nash’s goal.

With the win, the series now effectively becomes a best-of-three games scenario. Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday night at Bell Centre in Montreal. Puck drop will be a little after 7 p.m. ET and the game can be viewed on USA in the United States, as well as CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets— Game 4

By: Connor Keith

With a 5-4 victory over the Penguins, Columbus avoided elimination from its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and pulled the series to a two-game, 3-1 deficit.

Many coaches – regardless of sport – prescribe to some variation of the theory that winning the game is all about winning a majority of the smaller time increments. Be it three quarters in football or two periods in hockey, the mentality seems to make sense (of course, don’t tell that to Monday’s four blown two-goal leads).

With that strategy in mind, it would seem that Columbus earned its first victory of the postseason in the first period, as the Blue Jackets owned a 2-0 lead over the visiting Penguins going into the first intermission. With 8:14 remaining in the frame, it was Jack Johnson (David Savard) drawing first blood by burying a snap shot from the top of the near face-off circle by way of bouncing the puck off Sidney Crosby’s right skate. That right skate would prove to be important in quite a few plays in this game, but more on that later.

Josh Anderson (First Star of the Game William Karlsson and Kyle Quincey) took credit for the other goal, a snapper buried with 64 seconds remaining before the first scheduled game break. He raced up the near side of the offensive zone right to Marc-Andre Fleury’s doorstop to squeeze the puck five-hole.

Though Pittsburgh won the second period, it was not before Second Star Markus Nutivaara (Third Star Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad) was able to give the Jackets a three-goal shutout lead. 4:45 into the contet, Fleury blocked the rookie’s first shot of the game, followed two seconds later by Jenner collecting the rebound and firing a shot of his own from the top of the far face-off circle. That too was saved by the experienced netminder, but Fleury couldn’t stop the next one: a Nutivaara snapper shot from far corner of the crease.

Only 1:55 later, the postseason’s best offense finally got on the board thanks to a Patric Hornqvist power play snapper. Officially, the assists belong to Justin Schultz and Phil Kessel, though I think the scorebook should be altered to read Crosby and Schultz. The Penguins went to work quickly after Quincey was sent to the sin bin for interfering with Evgeni Malkin at the 5:29 mark. Schultz fired a slap shot from the blue line towards the far post, but his attempt found a different metal object. That’s right, Crosby’s right skate once again came into play, as the shot banked off his foot and towards Bobrovsky’s crease. The puck lost a lot of speed off the deflection, which gave Hornqvist the opportunity reach out and bang it home.

Over his 14 years in the NHL, there have been a few things missing from Ron Hainsey’s career. One of those was accomplished in Game 1, as he made his first appearance in the postseason. Another box was checked with 3:36 remaining in the second period when he registered his first goal (Kessel and Malkin) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After receiving a Kessel pass in the near corner, he pulled Pittsburgh within a one-goal deficit by burying a snapper five-hole from the near face-off circle.

It seems Karlsson took offense to the Pens winning the second period because he came out of the dressing room after the intermission at the top of his game. First, he won the opening face-off of the third period, followed 11 seconds later by a wicked snap shot Fleury barely managed to save. Karlsson tried to put another shot on net 25 seconds into the game, but that one was blocked by Ian Cole into the glass.

The third time was the charm, though his stick wasn’t the last thing to touch the scoring shot. Karlsson collected the puck sent behind Fleury’s crease from Cole’s block and began a wrap-around fade-away goal towards the far post. In the extremely short time between the center’s backhanded shot leaving his stick and entering the crease, it looks like Crosby’s right skate barely touches the puck to alter its course enough beat Fleury’s right pad.

The Jackets had one more goal in them too, courtesy of a Jenner (Saad and Nutivaara) tip-in that proved to be the game-winner. Saad did much of the work, firing an initial snap shot from the near slot right at Fleury’s chest that the goalie was not able to catch. The rebound came right back to his stick, which the left wing tried to poke towards the far post. He succeeded in doing just that, but three Penguins skaters were in the crease to try to help their off-balance netminder. That’s why Jenner completed the play. His stick was the first to touch the puck, and he made sure it was also the last.

Pittsburgh was able to hold serve throughout the third frame, but I watch enough tennis to know that holding serve is not enough to win when trailing. 103 seconds after Karlsson scored his backhander, Tom Kuhnhackl (Matt Cullen and Cole) scored a snap shot and Jake Guentzel (Kessel and Malkin) was able to convert a shorthanded snapper of his own with the extra attacker with 28 seconds remaining in regulation, but it was too little too late to prevent a Game 5.

In essence, the Jackets did everything right to continue their season, due in part to playing with house money. Alexander Wennberg dominated at the dot by winning two-thirds of his face-offs. Nick Foligno led the team to 27 hits with his five blows. Quincey registered four of Columbus’ 19 shot blocks. But maybe the most impressive stat is the fact that the Jackets only gave the puck away twice to a team trailing for almost the entire game.

The Jackets had little to lose Tuesday night, but they’ll face a far tougher test in Game 5 when the series transitions back to PPG Paints Arena where the Penguins will have all intentions of advancing to the Eastern Semifinals. That contest will drop the puck at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday and may be viewed on NHL Network stateside or SN and TVAS2 if in Canada.

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Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks— Game 4

If you’re an Oilers fan, avert your eyes from looking at the score for a moment and I’ll give you a quick recap. Edmonton lost.

If you’re a Sharks fan, well then the rest of this is for you…

Six San Jose Sharks players recorded multiple points in Tuesday night’s 7-0 shutout victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers at SAP Center. Joe Pavelski (2-1=3 totals), Patrick Marleau (1-1=2), Logan Couture (0-2=2), Joel Ward (0-2=2), Brent Burns (0-3=3) and David Schlemko (1-1=2) all had two or more points en route to the win in Game 4.

Martin Jones amassed 23 saves in the shutout win, which— coincidentally— was the same number of saves Edmonton goaltender, Cam Talbot, had in his shutout victory in Game 3. In fact, Game 4 marked the third shutout in a row in the series.

Talbot made 19 saves on 24 shots against for a .792 save percentage in 32:52 time on ice before being replaced by Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit went on to stop six out of the eight shots on net he faced in the remaining 27:08 of regulation.

Pavelski (1) kicked off scoring 15 seconds into the game with his first of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on a redirected shot from Justin Braun. Braun (1) and Marleau (1) were credited with the assists on the goal that made it 1-0 Sharks.

Couture (1) added his first of the postseason at 11:02 of the 1st period with the first of four power play goals on the night for San Jose. Pavelski (2) and Burns (1) had the assists on Couture’s goal.

Marleau (1) opened up 2nd period scoring with a wrist shot that beat Talbot’s glove side 2:02 into the period on another power play for the Sharks. Burns (2) had the only assist on the goal and his second of three assists on the night.

Marcus Sorensen (1) found the twine and made it 4-0 in favor of San Jose almost halfway into the 2nd frame of the game. The goal was Sorensen’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the helpers went to Schlemko (1) and Ward (1) at 9:46 of the 2nd period.

Oilers head coach, Todd McLellan, did not pull Talbot in favor of Brossoit until he absolutely had to, which was apparent after Couture (2) scored his second goal of the night 12:52 into the 2nd. Jannik Hansen (1) and Ward (2) collected the assists on the goal that had made it a 5-0 game. Edmonton had let their starting netminder down.

With Brossoit in goal it only took a little less than four minutes before Pavelski (2) hit the back of the net on a rush to the goal for the third power play goal of the night. Burns (3) and Joe Thornton (1) were given the assists on Pavelski’s second goal of the night.

After a four goal outburst in the 2nd period, the Sharks took a 6-0 lead into the 2nd intermission.

But they wouldn’t let off the gas pedal in the 3rd period.

Almost seven minutes into the final frame of regulation, Schlemko (1) registered his first goal of the postseason on another San Jose power play. Tomas Hertl (2) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (3) assisted on the Sharks’s fourth power play goal of the night at 6:45 of the 3rd period.

The final horn sounded after 60 minutes of play and the Sharks had beaten the Oilers 7-0 and the series was tied 2-2.

In a now best-of-three battle, Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday night in Edmonton and can be viewed across the United States on NBCSN and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. Puck drop is set for a little after 10:30 p.m. ET.

Of note, San Jose set or tied four postseason franchise records in Game 4’s victory.

The San Jose Sharks won by a touchdown (plus a PAT) and Jerry Rice was in the building. Coincidence? I think not.

March 29 – Day 161 – Bird is the word

Though there’s only four games on today’s schedule, there’s at least two that should provide some captivating play.

The action starts a little later this evening as Chicago at Pittsburgh (NBCSN/TVAS) doesn’t drop the puck until 8 p.m., followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Calgary (SN). 10 p.m. marks the beginning of Washington at Colorado, preceding tonight’s nightcap – St. Louis at Arizona (SN360) – by half an hour. All times eastern.

Since the Kings‘ playoff chances took a significant hit last night with their loss in Edmonton, let’s catch the action in the Steel City.

 

Quick, tell me the best team in the NHL since the beginning of February. Calgary? Nope. Pittsburgh? Nada. Washington? Guess again.

You’ve probably figured it out, but the correct answer is the best team in the Western Conference, the 48-21-7 Blackhawks. In the past two months, Chicago has earned an impressive 18-4-2 record on the back of its elite offense.

On the season as a whole, the Hawks rank seventh-best in goals-per-game, but February and March have been an absolute clinic. Led by Patrick Kane‘s 33 points (the fourth-most in the league over that stretch), Chicago has buried 84 goals in that time, trailing only Nashville for most in the NHL.

Kane has been absolutely magnificent of late. 19 of his 34 goals on the season have been struck since the beginning of February, and both totals are tops in the Windy City. But the main reason Chicago is playing so well is they’ve stayed extremely healthy. Only 25 different skaters have donned a Blackhawks sweater in their past 24 games, an extremely impressive total that perfectly explains the club’s synergy.

That compatibility is most evidenced when the Hawks take to the power play. Though they actually rank 14th-worst on the season as a whole, Chicago has converted 22.4% of its man-advantages in the past month – the 10th-best effort in that time.

Captain Jonathan Toews gets to take a lot of credit for that success. Though he’s only registered one power play point in his past six games, Toews has nine on his resume since February to lead the club. Most of those have been assists to the other star of the first power play unit: Kane. He’s buried five power play goals in the past two months to headline the team and tie for fourth-most in the NHL.

If there’s one spot the Hawks are still trying to improve, it has to be their penalty kill. Stopping only 77.4% of opponents’ power plays all season, they rank fifth-worst in the league. The issue is not 30-16-3 Corey Crawford, but the defense playing in front of him. Crawford has faced the 12th-most power play shots against in the league (among netminders with 30 or more appearances) due to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook being the only two players with more than 22 shorthanded shot blocks.

Though two games ended in a shootout, the last three games have been tough for the 46-18-11 Penguins, the third-best team in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.

The reason for Pittsburgh‘s struggles is not on the ice, but off it. Nine players were listed on the Penguins‘ most recent injury report, though Jake Guentzel (concussion), Ron Hainsey (upper body) and Conor Sheary (lower body) skated yesterday. If any are cleared before tonight’s game, I’d bet on Sheary since Guentzel and Hainsey wore non-contact sweaters.

Usually one of the elite squads in the game, the holes in the lineup has most effected Pittsburgh‘s offense. Usually averaging a league-high 3.4 goals-per-game, the Pens have scored only six goals in their past three games, which ironically ties with Chicago for fifth-fewest since Thursday.

If able, Sheary will be a welcome addition to the lineup to rejuvenate the offense. He’s averaged .91 points-per-game this season, which is the third-best average in Pittsburgh. Of course, he’s no Evgeni Malkin, another member of the club spending more time in the training room than he’d like. His 33 goals are second-most on the team (and 10th-most in the league) behind Sidney Crosby‘s 42, as is his 1.16 points-per-game average (good for the ninth-most points in the NHL).

One thing that hasn’t suffered is the power play. Scoring on a third of its attempts, Pittsburgh is tied for sixth-best in the league since March 23 – well above its 22.4% success rate on the season. What’s most impressive about this effort is that the power play scoring has come from five different players, and none of them were drafted first overall.

Instead, the special team that has taken a step back is the one that was already poor to begin with. The Pens‘ penalty kill has blocked only one power play shot (courtesy of Tom Kuhnhackl) en route to only a 75% kill rate, which ties for eighth-worst in the league in the last week.

When the Penguins visited the United Center four weeks ago, they seemed to forget about one major detail: Kane.

Not Kahn, Captain Kirk; Kane. Notching his second hat trick in three games, the right wing teamed with Scott Darling and his 36-save effort to lead Chicago to a 4-1 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (30 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) and Kane (82 points [tied for second-most in the league] on 34 goals and 48 assists [both tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (42 goals [leads the league] for 82 points [tied for second-most in the NHL]), Matthew Murray (.923 save percentage [seventh-best in the league]), Justin Schultz (+27 [eighth-best in the NHL]) and Sheary (+26 [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

No matter how busy Chris Stewart – the Penguins‘ head athletic trainer –  is, Vegas still favors Pittsburgh to win with a -125 line. Unfortunately, I don’t feel quite so optimistic for the home team. Chicago has been on an absolute tear over the past 56 days and doesn’t look like its stopping now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Brad McCrimmon (1959-2011) – Selected 15th-overall by the Bruins in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman spent most of his 18 seasons in Philadelphia. The late 80s were an incredible year for this Saskatchewanian, as he not only made his lone All-Star Game appearance in ’88, but also hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Flames a year later.
  • Maxim Lapierre (1985-) – Though currently playing in Switzerland, this center has 10 seasons of NHL experience. Due to being selected 61st-overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the local Canadiens, most of his playing time came in Montréal. A consistent enforcer, he spent 130 minutes in the penalty box in 2011-’12 as a Canuck.

Three of Boston‘s four lines found the back of the net to lead the Bruins to a 4-1 victory over the Predators in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Patrice Bergeron (Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand) got the scoring started early with a wrist shot 2:28 into the game to give the Bruins an early lead. With 6:08 remaining in the first period, Second Star of the Game David Krejci (David Pastrnak and Drew Stafford) doubled that lead with a wrister of his own, the score that proved to be the game-winner.

The visiting Preds finally got on the scoreboard with 8:44 remaining in regulation when Craig Smith (Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis) tipped the puck into Tuukka Rask‘s net, but Third Star Noel Acciari (Riley Nash) neutralized that tally 4:31 later with the first goal of his NHL career. David Backes (Dominic Moore) took advantage of an empty net in the waning moments of the contest to set the final 4-1 score.

Rask earned the victory after saving 24-of-25 shots faced (96%), leaving Pekka Rinne with the loss, who saved 27-of-30 (90%).

Boston‘s home victory was a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as road and home teams in the series have both earned an equal 187 points. Visitors do have the most wins though at 82-58-23, compared to the hosts’ 81-57-25.

March 24 – Day 156 – Isle have what he’s having

Just like you look forward to Friday to begin your two-day break, this is a lot of the league’s rest day before a weekend of excitement.

There’s only four games on the schedule tonight, starting with the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh (NHLN/SN/TVAS) at 7 p.m. and Tampa Bay at Detroit half an hour later. San Jose at Dallas drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., with Winnipeg at Anaheim – tonight’s nightcap – getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Pittsburgh: Not only is it rivalry night in the Steel City, but the Isles have a chance to move into the playoff bracket.
  • Tampa Bay at Detroit: It’s been almost a year now, but these clubs did meet up in one of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.

With the Bruins on a four-game losing skid, they’ve opened the door for the Islanders to once again enter the playoff picture. Pair that with one of my favorite rivalries in the Metropolitan Division (at least), and we’ve got a surefire featured matchup!

 

The rivalry between these two clubs is well documented in multiple places around the web, though I would recommend the YouTube videos I included on November 18 when these teams met for the second time this season. In gist, previous meetings between these clubs have been… scrappy.

As mentioned before, 34-26-12 New York is licking its chops in anticipation for tonight’s game, because a win over a rival is made only sweeter by moving into the second wild card spot that is currently occupied by 38-30-6 Boston.

For the ninth-place Isles (fifth in the Metropolitan) to actually secure that win, they’ll need to shore up a defensive end that has been a little more than leaky this season. They’ve allowed 216 goals against already this year, the #fifth-most in the NHL.

Of course, that starts with the goaltender. Enter 25-16-5 Thomas Greiss, who was officially declared New York‘s starting goaltender after 6-8-5 Jaroslav Halak was sent to Bridgeport on New Year’s Eve. Greiss has tried to make solid use of his time, but his .914 season save percentage and 2.67 GAA rank only #(t)24th and #28th-best among the 46 goalies with at least 23 appearances.

While those are below-average numbers, it’s not as if he’s the only hole on that end of the Islanders‘ ice. The defense playing in front of him is not much better, as they allow 32.1 shots-per-game to reach Greiss’ net – the #fifth-highest average in the NHL. The main reason New York isn’t worse is the incredible play of Calvin de Haan, who has 170 shot blocks to his credit to not only lead the team, but also rank #fifth-best in the league.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but another issue in New York has been a power play that is successful on only 15.8% of attempts – the #fifth-worst effort in the league. Just like he does on the even-strength attack, Captain John Tavares has been the star of the man-advantage with his team-leading 17 power play points. He’s joined at the top of the Isles‘ extra-man scorers list by Anders Lee, as both have buried seven tallies.

Though their injury list is nearly as long as this preview, the 46-17-10 Penguins are the second-best team in the Metropolitan, Eastern Conference and the NHL. Having already locked up their spot in the playoffs, Pittsburgh will try to continue their impressive offensive performance that has returned 250 goals – the #most in the NHL.

As you’d probably guess, the man behind that charge is none other than Captain Sidney Crosby. He leads Pittsburgh‘s offensive juggernaut with 81 points, 41 of which are goals – another mark he paces the club in. His season goal total is already the second-highest of his career, but it doesn’t seem he’ll match or succeed his 2009-’10 personal best of 51 tallies in a campaign.

One of the Pens‘ favorite ways to score the puck is via the power play, as they are #tied for third-best in the league with their 22.3% success rate. Second-year Penguin Phil Kessel has been instrumental in that effort with his team-leading 28 power play points, but Crosby still manages to get his beak wet, as 13 of his goals have come with the extra-man – the most on the squad.

So far this year, the Penguins have had the upper-hand when squaring off against the Islanders, as they’ve won two of the previous three matchups. Of course, the most recent meeting on November 30 was the one the Isles won 5-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Josh Bailey (37 assists [leads the team]), Cal Clutterbuck (193 hits [leads the team]), Dennis Seidenberg (+23 [leads the team]) and Tavares (62 points [leads the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Ian Cole (+28 [seventh-best in the league]), Crosby (41 goals [leads the NHL] for 81 points [tied for second-most in the league]), Matthew Murray (.925 save percentage [sixth-best in the NHL] for a 2.34 GAA [10th-best in the league]) and Justin Schultz (+32 [tied for best in the NHL]).

I haven’t seen Vegas’ line for tonight’s game yet, but I can only assume it favors the home Penguins. None are better than Pittsburgh at scoring the puck, and the Islanders can’t help but allow goals. All signs point toward the Isles fighting for a playoff spot on a different night.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Jarvis (1955-) – Toronto selected this center 24th-overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, but he never played a game for the Leafs. Instead, he played most of his 13 seasons in Montréal, where he hoisted four-straight Stanley Cups. His hardware collection also includes the 1984 Frank J. Selke and the 1987 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophies.
  • Pat Price (1955-) – 13 picks before Jarvis was selected, the Islanders picked up this defenseman. He played 13 seasons in the NHL, and spent most of his time in Quebec. From 1976-’78, he registered an impressive +51 rating on only 37 points.
  • Philippe Boucher (1973-) – The 13th-overall selection in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, this defenseman spent 16 seasons in the league, mostly in Los Angeles. During his sixth campaign with Dallas, he was traded to Pittsburgh to win the 2009 Stanley Cup and close out his career.
  • Maxim Kuznetsov (1977-) – Detroit selected this defenseman 26th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his NHL career. Unfortunately for him, his tenure in the league was only 136 games and four seasons long.
  • Ron Hainsey (1981-) – A longtime member of the Thrashers/Jets organization, this defenseman was selected 13th-overall by Montréal in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Similar to Boucher, Hainsey was traded to Pittsburgh at this season’s trade deadline in hopes of claiming his first Stanley Cup.
  • P.A. Parenteau (1983-) – Though selected by Anaheim in the ninth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing has been a career journeyman over his nine seasons in the league. Currently, he plays for the Predators after joining them at this season’s trade deadline.

I predicted a defensive matchup, and that’s exactly what we got in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as Washington needed a shootout to knock off the Blue Jackets at the Verizon Center.

Although a combined total of 48 shots were fired over the course of the first 40 minutes, the first goal of the game wasn’t struck until the 41 second mark of the third period. That tally belonged to Seth Jones (Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner) and the Jackets, but the Capitals were more than prepared to deal with that obstacle. 5:58 after Jones’ marker, Third Star of the Game Dmitry Orlov (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) buried his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at one-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five-minute three-on-three overtime period.

Who knew that even a shootout could be a defensive affair?

  1. The only person that didn’t apply to was T.J. Oshie, who scored the first shootout attempt to give the Caps an early lead.
  2. Cam Atkinson was charged with leveling the shootout for Columbus, but First Star Braden Holtby was having none of that. He saved Atkinson’s shot to keep Washington‘s 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Evgeny Kuznetsov tried to improve on the Capitals‘ advantage, but Second Star Sergei Bobrovsky would not yield.
  4. Sam Gagner tried to reward Bobrovsky’s work, but he met a worse fate than Atkinson – he completely missed.
  5. Nicklas Backstrom had a chance to end the shootout with a goal, but Bobrovsky earned one more shot for his club after saving the center’s attempt.
  6. It’s not often a team gets three tries to tie a shootout, but Alexander Wennberg did not take advantage of that opportunity. Holtby made the save to earn the extra point in the standings.

Holtby saved 29-of-20 shots faced (96.7%) to earn the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 44-of-45 (97.8%).

That victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which is now tied at 79-56-23.

NHL Trades Since January 1st, 2017

As usual, here’s our annual recap of all of the trades made in the NHL since the change of the calendar year. For anything prior to January 1, 2017, check out NHL.com’s official Trade Tracker (as I’m sure we all will be saving that as our homepage and refreshing it every few minutes from now until the deadline).

This year’s trade deadline is Wednesday, March 1, 2017. All trade calls must be made by 3:00 PM EST on Monday in order for any deal to potentially go through.

This post will be updated as frequently as possible leading up to March 1st.

The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked things off in the year of our current era two-thousand-seventeen by trading G Jhonas Enroth to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2018 7th round pick on January 11th.

Longtime member of the Colorado AvalancheF Cody McLeod was traded to the Nashville Predators on January 13th. The Av’s acquired F Felix Girard in return.

January 21st witnessed the trade between the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks in which F Michael Latta swapped LA living for the Windy City. D Cameron Schilling was pretty psyched for sunny skies and California weather, as he was sent in return from Chicago to the Kings.

The Ottawa Senators made a splash with the acquisition of F Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks on January 24th in exchange for F Buddy RobinsonF Zach Stortini and a 2017 7th round pick.

D Nikita Nesterov was sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning by the Montreal Canadiens on January 26thD Jonathan Racine and a 2017 6th round pick were sent to the Habs in return.

36-year-old F Vernon Fiddler was traded to the New Jersey Devils on February 4th. New Jersey sent the Nashville Predators2017 4th round pick in return.

D Tom Gilbert was traded by the Los Angeles Kings to the Washington Capitals for future considerations on February 15th.

The New Jersey Devils kept themselves busy two weeks after acquiring Fiddler from Nashville and traded F Sergey Kalinin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for D Viktor Loov on February 18th.

February 20th was a busy day for John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes as the 27-year-old general manager sent D Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2017 3rd round pick and a conditional 2018 5th round pick.

The Carolina Hurricanes and the Montreal Canadiens swapped minor league defensemen on February 21stD Keegan Lowe went from the Hurricanes organization to the Canadiens as D Philip Samuelsson did the reverse (MTL –> CAR).

On February 23rd, the Carolina Hurricanes made their second trade in three days and sent D Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carolina acquired F Danny Kristo and a 2017 2nd round pick in the transaction.

Two trades were completed on February 24th, with the first transaction involving the Dallas Stars and the Anaheim Ducks. The Stars swapped F Patrick Eaves with Anaheim for a conditional 2017 2nd round pick.

In the second trade of the day, the Detroit Red Wings sent F Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a 2017 3rd round pick.

The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired F Stefan Fournier from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for F Jeremy Morin on February 25th.

G Ben Bishop and a 2017 5th round pick were traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for G Peter BudajD Erik Cernak, a 2017 7th round pick and a conditional 2017 draft pick on February 26th.

Also on February 26th, F Martin HanzalF Ryan White and a 2017 4th round pick, were traded by the Arizona Coyotes to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2017 1st round pick, a 2018 2nd round pick, a 2019 conditional 4th round pick and F Grayson Downing.

On Monday, February 27th, the Arizona Coyotes acquired F Teemu Pulkkinen from the  Minnesota Wild in exchange for future considerations.

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded F Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs and received F Byron Froese and a 2017 2nd round pick in return.

The Dallas Stars were also active on February 27th, having acquired D Greg Pateryn and a 2017 4th round pick from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for D Jordie Benn.

Longtime member of the Vancouver CanucksF Alex Burrows, was traded to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for F Jonathan Dahlen. The Senators, by the way, immediately signed Burrows to a two-year extension.

Late Monday night the St. Louis Blues traded D Kevin Shattenkirk and G Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals in exchange for F Brad MaloneF Zach Sanford, a 2017 1st round pick and a conditional 2019 2nd round pick. St. Louis retained 39% of Shattenkirk’s salary in the deal. Hire a lawyer to walk you through the conditions on the draft pick, if you’re curious.

The dump-and-rebuild process in Detroit seems to have officially begun, as the Red Wings have traded D Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers Tuesday for two draft picks: New York’s 2017 third round pick and their 2018 second round pick. This season is Smith’s fourth playing full time in the NHL, but he’s only appeared in 33 games so far this year. He’s on the last year of his contract, but he’s indicated to the Red Wings in the past that he’d prefer to avoid free agency. Perchance New York will become a new long-term home.

Tuesday’s second trade involved the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes. Now-former Cane F Viktor Stalberg was sent to the Canadian capital in exchange for Ottawa’s 2017 third round pick. Stalberg signed a one-year deal with Carolina in 2016 and is currently slated to become a free agent in July.

With approximately 24 hours remaining before the deadline, the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers swapped F Daniel Catenacci and D Mat Bodie, respectively. A third-rounder in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Catenacci joins the Blueshirts with 11 games of NHL experience, though he has not yet received a call up this season. In return, the Sabres received Bodie, the now-former captain of the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. Yet to play an NHL game, he’s registered 30 points this season with the Wolf Pack – the 12th-most by an AHL defenseman.

It seems the time for big-name defensemen to be traded is during the evening, as the Dallas Stars traded D Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks. In return, the Stars received F Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth round pick in 2018. Oduya returns to the Hawks after a two-year stint in Dallas, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the completion of this season. Drafted 18th-overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, McNeill has only one NHL game to show for his short career.

Tuesday night, the Montréal Canadiens shipped F David Desharnais to the Edmonton Oilers, and received D Brandon Davidson in return. Desharnais provides 38 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience to the young Oilers on the final year of his four-year contract, while Davidson is a blueline presence that is near ready for the big leagues – if he’s not there already – and has one more year on his $2.85 million contract before he becomes a restricted free agent.

March 31 – Day 168 – Staal comes home

With two successful shootout goals, the Flyers held home ice to beat Washington 2-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The first two periods were just like I like them – scoreless.  It wasn’t until 41:28 had ticked off the clock that Alex Ovechkin connected on a power play snap shot, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 54th helper of the season) and Justin Williams.  With 5:28 remaining in regulation, Brayedn Schenn leveled the game for the Flyers, assisted by Claude Giroux (his 43rd helper of the season) and Wayne Simmonds.  Neither side could find the net again during the remaining time, nor the five minutes of overtime, sending us to a shootout.

Washington got to shoot first, but T.J. Oshie’s attempt was denied by Third Star of the Game Steve Mason.  Nick Cousins was up next, and scored on a backhander.  Kuznetsov danced around a bit before getting almost all the way to the goal line and tried to bang one off the far post, but Mason make a quick glove save to end that attempt.  Second Star Sam Gagner gets the unofficial game winner, going five hole on First Star Braden Holtby to secure the bonus point.

Mason earns the win after saving 29 of the 30 shots he faced (96.7%), while Holtby take the shootout loss, saving 33 of 34 (97.1%).

With the third straight home win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 77-43-18, favoring the home sides by 37 points over the roadies.

This Thursday, we have 10 games on tap for you to choose from.  40% of them drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Buffalo [BELL TV], Columbus at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Pittsburgh [NHLN/TVAS] and the New York Rangers at Carolina), followed half an hour later by two more (Montréal at Tampa Bay [RDS] and New Jersey at Florida).  Ottawa at Minnesota [RDS2] starts at 8 p.m. eastern, with Arizona at Dallas trailing 30 minutes later.  Finally, our co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose).

Over half of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Toronto at Buffalo, Columbus at New York, New York at Carolina, Montréal at Tampa Bay, Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose), but only Nashville at Pittsburgh is between playoff qualifiers.  Also, the MontréalTampa Bay game is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Semifinals.

The game that stands out the most this evening actually has nothing to do with the standings, but everything to do with the return of a beloved player.

New York Rangers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

Tonight’s game will be New York‘s 22nd in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 11-7-3 record, with their most recent being Sunday’s home 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins.  Carolina has been featured four times before this game, and own a 1-1-2 record in such contests, with their most recent being February 23’s 3-1 home victory over the Flyers.

Drafted by the Hurricanes second overall in the 2003 Entry Draft, Eric Staal has only recently joined the second team of his career at this season’s trade deadline.

Over 12 years in Carolina, Staal played 909 games, scoring 322 goals and adding 453 assists for 775 points.

No doubt the best year to be a Cane was during the 2005-’06 season when they won the Stanley Cup.  During that playoff run, Staal scored nine goals (tied for second most on the club) and 19 assists (led the team) for 28 points, the most for Carolina.  Arguably his most important goal was his only game winner of the postseason, an overtime power play tally, his first his playoff career, that saved the Canes from going down three games to none in Montréal.  With that new found momentum, Carolina won the next three games following to win that series 4-2 and eventually hoist the Cup.

That success wasn’t isolated to the playoffs though, as he scored 45 goals during the regular season, as well as 55 assists, for 100 points flat, all categories he led (ok, tied for the lead in assists with Cory Stillman) for his club.  Those sophomore numbers have also been the peak of his career, which he achieved with cool 16.1% shooting rate.

Before joining the Rangers this February, he notched 23 assists, a total that still ranks fourth most on the team this season.  His production has improved since making the move to Manhattan, as he already has three goals and two assists to his credit after only 14 games played.

The 43-24-9 New York Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played solid offense backed by the 12th best defense.

Even with Derek Stepan’s 176 shots, New York has fired the puck only 2158 times, but 10% have found the back of the net for 219 goals (led by Derick Brassard’s 27 tallies), the fifth best offense in the NHL.  The Rangers prefer to keep things even-steven, as their power play, successful on 19.32% of their attempts for 40 extra man goals (led by Brassard’s eight power play tallies) ranks only 12th best in the league.

Even with Dan Girardi’s 187 blocks, the Blueshirts have allowed 2303 shots to reach 33-19-7 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 199 goals against, the 12th fewest in the league.  If you thought New York was concerned about their power play, you haven’t seen the other side of their special teams.  Madison Square Garden is the home of the fourth worst penalty kill in the league, neutralizing only 77.93% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against.

The Rangers last played Sunday when they fell to the Pens, which ended their winning streak at three.  A win is very important for New York, as they are still very much competing with Pittsburgh for second in the division and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

The  33-28-16 Carolina Hurricanes are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  The Canes play the 15th worst defense, paired with the fifth worst offense.

Led by Ron Hainsey’s 118 blocks, Carolina has allowed only 2112 shots to reach 21-16-10 Cam Ward and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.8% for 208 shots against, the 15th most in the league.  The worst part about that stat is that most of those goals come at even strength, as the Hurricanes‘ 84.38% kill rate that has allowed only 30 power play goals against ranks fifth best in the entire league.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 239 shots, the Canes have fired the puck 2312 times, with 8% finding the back of the net for 187 goals (led by Skinner’s 26 tallies), the fifth fewest in the league.  A major contributor to that issue is certainly their power play, which ranks eighth worst after finding success on only 16.67% of attempts for 38 goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 power play tallies).

Carolina last played Tuesday to a 2-1 shootout loss in Brooklyn.  The Canes are technically still alive for the playoffs, but trail the Flyers by seven points with only five games remaining.

New York has already won the season series against the Hurricanes, but would like to complete the season sweep with a fourth win this evening in Raleigh.

Some players to keep an eye on include Carolina‘s Skinner (26 goals, 22 of which were at even strength and seven were game winners, for 47 points on 239 shots [all lead the team]) and Jordan Staal (+6, 20 even strength assists, two shorthanded assists and 156 hits [all lead the team]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (33 wins [tied for sixth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league] and .922 save percentage [eighth best in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+27 [tied for fifth best in the league]).

There’s no doubt in my mind that New York, especially with the help of their offense, will win this game.  That being said, they will get cheered at least once by the Hurricane faithful when the 12-year Carolina alumnus takes the ice.

February 23 – Day 131 – Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Canes: A lesson on alliteration

A whopping nine goals were scored in yesterday’s Game of the Day, and the San Jose Sharks scored two-thirds of them to beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3.

Second Star of the Game Tomas Hertl was responsible for the first tally of the evening, assisted by Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski (his 29th helper of the season) at the 4:44 mark.  5:34 later, Hertl scored again on Ryan Reaves’ five-minute major, assisted by Joonas Donskoi (his 17th helper of the season) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  The score extended to 3-0 with a tip-in power play goal from First Star Logan Couture, who was assisted by Thornton (his 41st helper of the season) and Brent Burns.  The Blues got one back with 2:24 remaining in the period when David Backes scored a power play goal of his own, assisted by Jaden Schwartz and Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko, for his 15th tally of the season.  The 3-1 score held to the intermission.

11:25 after resuming play, Tarasenko scored his 29th tally of the season to get St. Louis within a goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Jori Lehtera.  That energy was short-lived though, as Couture scored his second of the night only 20 seconds later, assisted by Melker Karlsson and Vlasic (his 27th helper of the season), which ended up being the game winner.  The 4-2 score held into the third period.

Thornton extended the differential back to three goals with an unassisted backhander at the 7:26 mark, his 13th tally of the season.  2:24 later, Jay Bouwmeester’s slap shot found the back of the net after being assisted by Tarasenko (his 25th helper of the season) and Lehtera.  The final goal of the game was en empty netter compliments of a Thornton backhander, assisted by Couture, to set the score at the 6-3 final.

Martin Jones earns the win after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%), while Jake Allen takes the loss after saving 15 of 17 (88.2%) in his first action since being on the Injured Reserve for nearly two months.  He replaced starter Brian Elliott (12 for 15, 80%) after 12:59 of play, who sustained a lower-body injury after the Sharks‘ third goal severe enough to send him to the dressing room.

After tonight’s game, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 58-31-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Tuesday schedule in the greatest hockey league in the world, with nine games taking place.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with two contests (the New York Rangers at New Jersey and Philadelphia at Carolina), followed half an hour later by three more (Nashville at Toronto, Columbus at Detroit [NBCSN] and Arizona at Tampa Bay).  The next phase of games drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (the New York Islanders at Minnesota and Dallas at Winnipeg), with Ottawa at Edmonton trailing an hour behind.  Finally, Calgary at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional matchups (New York at New Jersey, Philadelphia at Carolina, Dallas at Winnipeg and Calgary at Los Angeles), and none feature two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game I’m most interested in actually features no teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, but two teams with postseason aspirations.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

This will be Philadelphia‘s third time featured in the Game of the Day series, and their first appearance since October 21, a 5-4 overtime win in Boston.  The Flyers also won their first appearance, so they own a perfect 2-0-0 record in our series.  Carolina has been featured three times before this evening, and own a 0-1-2 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 2-1 shootout loss in Montréal on February 7.

The 26-21-11 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve played the 15th-worst defense in the league and, to make matters worse, have scored the fifth-fewest goals.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team-leading 119 blocks, the Flyers have allowed a whopping 1844 shots to reach 13-15-7 Steve Mason and. co., of which a solid 92.1% have been saved for 158 goals against, 15th-most in the league.  Philadelphia has done well at even-strength, but rank seventh-worst in the league on the penalty kill, where they’ve neutralized only 78.82% of their penalties for 43 extra-man goals against.

The offense ranks even worse, although it isn’t for a lack of effort.  Led by Jakub Voracek’s 171 shots, the Flyers have fired the puck 1751 times, but only 8.1% have found the back of the net for 144 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 21 tallies), fifth-fewest in the league.  In comparison, Philadelphia has been moderately successful on the power play, as they’ve connected on 18.23% of their extra-man opportunities for 35 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 10 power play goals), 13th-worst in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last game was a 5-4 overtime victory in Toronto on Saturday.  A win tonight in Raleigh will propel the Flyers past the Canes in the standings and, if paired with a New Jersey loss, would position them as first-team-out for the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Should they lose and Ottawa win, they would fall back to 12th in the conference.

The 27-23-10 Carolina Hurricanes enter the night sitting in sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to Philadelphia, they play a slightly below-average defense paired with a lackluster offense.

Thanks in part to Ron Hainsey’s 93 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1578 shots to reach 17-12-7 Cam Ward and co., of which 90.5% have found the back of the net for 160 goals against, 14th most in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has not played as well, they certainly clamp down on the penalty kill, where they rank 12th-best, killing 81.88% of opposing penalty kill for only 27 extra-man goals against.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 171 shots, Carolina has fired the puck 1819 times, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 148 goals (led by Skinner’s 21 tallies), seventh-fewest in the league.  Too bad for Carolina, this special team has not been as effective, as they only connect on 17.49% of extra-man opportunities for 32 power play goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 extra-man tallies).

Carolina‘s last game was a 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Sunday.   Should the Hurricanes win this evening, they could move ahead of New Jersey for ninth in the Eastern Conference if they fall to the Rangers.  Should Carolina lose, they would swap spots with the Flyers regardless of Ottawa‘s result.

Philadelphia may lead the season series 3-0-0, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant as that record would imply.  The Canes have taken the Flyers to overtime in all three of those games, with their most recent meeting ending 4-3 in Philly on December 15.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Jordan Staal (38 points, of which 23 are assists [17 of those were at even-strength and two short-handed], 114 hits and a +9 [all lead the team]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.93 save percentage [tied for league lead] and 2.17 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

These teams are very evenly matched for each other, made evident by their previous meetings.  Given Philadelphia‘s ability to get the winner against the Canes in the past, I think I’m leaning towards the Flyers, but wouldn’t be surprised if the game required more than 60 minutes of play.

Colby’s Corner: A Surprise Hurricane Hit Carolina

Carolina Hurricanes LogoNow I am not talking about an actual storm, I am talking about the hockey team. One of the biggest surprises this year for me is the Carolina Hurricanes. After finishing in the bottom five last year and not adding much in the off-season, I don’t think many people had playoff hopes for this team, and with the declining attendance, that was pretty apparent. With the threat of relocation of the franchise, the team has come together and are still in the playoff hunt.

The Hurricanes are 6th in the metropolitan division, however they are only two points out of a Wildcard spot. The Hurricanes have been a special team this year, as they are finding ways to win games with such a young roster. The average age of the players on their current roster is 24 years old, including 10 players under the age of 24.

This includes the 5th overall pick from the 2015 entry-level draft, Noah Hanifin. The 19-year-old was the first defenseman selected in the 2015 draft. It surprised many people to see him jump into the Hurricanes’ roster so quickly this season. So far, the Hurricanes’ management team has to be happy with his performance, as he has two goals and ten assists in 54 games played. That’s not the stat everyone should be surprised by, however.

Young defensemen in this league make mistakes, and it usually results in giving up goals and a learning moment for the kid. Well, Hanifin isn’t making these mistakes, as his plus minus is a plus two on the season. This shocked me, as this shows that he is being calm and composed. It also shows that he has strong leadership on the back end from players like Ron Hanisey and John-Michael Liles.

Gregg Forwerck
Gregg Forwerck

Hanifin could also be following the path paved by the new leader of the team, Justin Faulk. Faulk is only 23 years old and this is his 4th full season in the NHL. Faulk leads the team in points with 34 points on the season. Faulk is shown to be a powerplay expert at his young age, as he is 3rd in the league for powerplay goals with 12 in the season.

The ‘Canes also have six players over 30 points on 56 games played. One of those players is Eric Staal. Staal is a major unrestricted free agent in this offseason, and if the Hurricanes hope to keep him, they are going to need to open their wallets wide as a lot of teams are eyeing him to help their teams next year. Eric Staal is one of the only players that was on the team when they won the Stanley Cup in the 2005-2006 season.   

For the sake of the franchise, I hope the Hurricanes can make the playoffs this season. This would instantly boost attendance for them, and they would be allowed to stay in Carolina, although Las Vegas and Quebec City may be hoping otherwise. The Hurricanes have a tough couple of games coming up against the Lighting, Blues and Bruins, so we will see how they do.