The Original Trio splices together some thoughts on the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees, Dan Bylsma, the 2018 Draft, recent trades and John Tavares. Go check out your local museums while you’re at it. It’s the offseason, surely you have nothing going on.
The theme of aquatic birds continues in DtFR’s offseason preview series, as it’s time to tackle the Anaheim Ducks’ priorities regarding their pending free agents.
Featuring a playoff roster with an average age of 28.5-years-old, logic would indicate the Ducks are in their prime. However, even though they’ve qualified for the postseason for six-straight seasons, they’ve failed to advance beyond the first round in half of those appearances – including a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks this April.
One of the biggest concerns about this Anaheim club is it plays an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style that simply doesn’t mesh well against the increasingly quicker and technically-sound opponents.
In simpler terms, the Ducks need to get younger and faster.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
One of the easiest ways to get younger is with a solid draft class, and Anaheim will have that opportunity with the 23rd-overall selection.
If one of the mock drafts I’ve compiled (all of which are available at Elite Prospects) are correct, I’d bet on General Manager Bob Murray selecting D Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer Rebels), C Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), D Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP) with his first round selection.
If there’s one thing the Ducks’ scouts know, it’s definitely defense. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all solid blueliners 26-years-old or younger that will service this organization for years to come, and I’d only expect Alexeyev, Sandin or Wilde to join the group if they’re deemed truly worthy.
That’s what makes McLeod such an attractive option. Even though the 18-year-old is all but ensured at least one more season with the Steelheads, Anaheim’s deep defense gives it the opportunity to invest in restocking its attack.
McLeod had a breakout season in 2017-18, registering 26-44-70 totals in 68 games played (1.03 points per game), followed by 2-3-5 marks in his six postseason appearances. If he can take command of the club following the potential departure of brother F Michael McLeod (12th-overall pick by New Jersey in 2016) and lead Mississauga on a deep playoff run, Anaheim could happen into a stellar young forward.
Pending free agents
Let’s tackle Anaheim’s easiest position first: goaltending. G John Gibson and G Ryan Miller are both under contract for one more season, so the Ducks will likely make no moves in this department. The most important note here is making sure Murray reserves money on the back burner for Gibson next summer (he’ll be an RFA, for those that care about those sorts of things). He currently has a touch over $9 million in cap space this season and a whopping $23 million to play with in 2019-20.
Montour’s 20:28 time on ice per game was fourth on the team, and the same can be said for his .4 points per game. At 24-years-old, he’ll be worth every penny of any contract he receives to play an imposing presence as a top-four defenseman.
Having just turned 37-years-old Saturday following a 0-8-8, -13 season in 59 games played, it’s hard to see a way Bieksa returns to Anaheim for a fourth season. That makes signing Welinski – the Ducks’ third-round pick in 2011 – to a low-cost, two-way contract all the easier to swallow.
Instead, the toughest decisions for Anaheim will be made in the forwards room. RW J.T. Brown, W Jason Chimera, C Derek Grant, W Ondrej Kase, F Chris Kelly, LW Nick Ritchie and F Antoine Vermette are all looking for contracts this summer, with all but Kase and Ritchie being of the UFA variety.
Regardless of type, Kase is by far the most important free agent on Anaheim’s plate this summer. He reached the 20-goal plateau in his second season in the NHL, and he needed only 66 games to do it. He may not compare to RW Teemu Selanne (I mean, the Finnish Flash did score 76 goals in his rookie season compared to Kase’s five), but I believe he’s fully ready to climb into a top-six position with F Rickard Rakell to lead this Ducks team when F Ryan Kesler and C Ryan Getzlaf depart.
In a similar fashion, fellow 22-year-old Ritchie should also receive a fresh deal to keep him in Orange County. While not quite the scorer Kase is (he managed only 10-17-27 totals in 76 games played this season), Ritchie is an excellent third-liner that still has more than enough time to develop into a real weapon from his position. Get him a bridge deal for a cap hit under $1.25 million and move on.
Anaheim’s most important UFA is Grant, a player that provided 12-12-24 totals in 66 appearances this season from his position on the fourth line. Coming off a one-year, $650 thousand deal, he’ll likely sign for cheap to give the Ducks four solid centers.
The rest of the UFAs (Brown – 27, Chimera – 39, Kelly – 37, Vermette – 35) either don’t fit with the “get younger” plan or simply aren’t worth the money (looking at you, Brown). Anaheim can either promote a forward from its organization (I like pending RFA F Kalle Kossila) or acquire another from outside to fill its 13th forward position.
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.
In anticipation of all but three teams’ final game of the season being played tomorrow, the NHL’s schedule is rather light this evening with only four matchups to offer.
Two puck drops (Ottawa at Pittsburgh [RDS] and Buffalo at Tampa Bay) get the evening underway at 7:30 p.m., while St. Louis at Chicago waits an hour before following suit. Finally, Dallas at Anaheim (NBCSN) closes out the night’s festivities with a 10 p.m. fixture. All times Eastern.
With Sunday being the last day of the regular season, the playoffs are king with tonight. Let’s choose today’s featured matchup based on its playoff impact:
- Ottawa at Pittsburgh: The Pens need at least one point to clinch second place in the Metropolitan Division.
- Buffalo at Tampa Bay: The Bolts are tied with Boston in points and games played; currently winning the regulation+overtime tiebreaker by one victory.
- St. Louis at Chicago: The Blues trail Colorado by one point with a game in hand. No matter if they win or lose this rivaly game, Saturday’s showdown with the Avs determines their playoff fate.
- Dallas at Anaheim: The Ducks currently trail Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division by one point, but they have one game in hand (tonight’s game). Saturday’s results will ultimately solidify the Ducks’ and Kings’ spots in the standings.
Since I’m almost certain we’re going to be focused on tomorrow’s game in Denver, let’s head to The Pond to see if the Ducks can capitalize on their game in hand.
Even though the 41-31-8 Stars have been eliminated from playoff contention since Sunday (thanks to an Anaheim overtime win, as luck would have it), they’ve shown some impressive character to post a 3-1-0 record over their last four showings, with wins coming over the Flyers and Wild at home and in San Jose on Tuesday.
In particular, Dallas’ defense has been putting up a solid fight lately by allowing an average of only 30 shots against per game during this run, the (t)11th-best mark in the NHL since March 27. Led by C Radek Faksa (averaging a takeaway per game since March 27), D Marc Methot (2.8 hits per game in that time) and D Greg Pateryn (2.5 blocks per game over this run), the Stars have been doing their best to make 14-14-3 G Kari Lehtonen look good to close the season.
Speaking of Lehtonen, he’s tried his hardest to take full advantage of everything is defense is doing in front of him. Having started all of the last four games, he’s posted a .912 save percentage and 2.79 GAA – both numbers right in line with his season marks of a .911 save percentage and 2.58 GAA.
However, it will not be Lehtonen in net this evening, as Head Coach Ken Hitchcock indicated this morning that 1-0-0 G Mike McKenna will get the nod instead. Tonight will be McKenna’s first NHL start since February 16, 2015, when he led the Coyotes into Denver only to lose 5-2.
But wait, Stars fans: don’t mark this game down as a loss just yet. After Lehtonen exited Tuesday’s game in San Jose late in the first period with an upper-body injury, McKenna kept the Sharks off the scoreboard with 17 saves to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 Dallas victory, earning his first NHL win since December 23, 2013 when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In 23 NHL appearances going back to the 2008-09 season, McKenna has an .892 career save percentage and 3.35 GAA.
I’ve already said it once this week, but there’s no team hotter in the Pacific Division than 42-25-13 Anaheim. Since March 14, the Ducks have posted a dominating 8-1-1 record to keep third place in the Pacific Division still within reach.
One needs look no further than the Ducks’ defense to figure out where they’re finding all their wins. Led by C Ryan Getzlaf (13 takeaways in his last nine games) and D Josh Manson (3.6 hits and 1.8 blocks per game since March 14), Anaheim has allowed only 29.9 shots against per game during this 10-game run to rank seventh-best in the NHL since March 14.
There was undoubtedly concern in the Ducks’ dressing room and front office when 31-18-7 G John Gibson went down with a lower-body injury Sunday against the Avalanche. After all, Gibson had been playing even better than his .926 season save percentage and 2.43 GAA lately, posting a .936 save percentage and 1.9 GAA in his nine starts before going down.
But then everybody in Anaheim remembered they had the 2010 Vezina winner as their backup, and they all settled back into their seats.
With a .927 season save percentage and 2.43 GAA, 10-6-6 G Ryan Miller has been a stellar backup goaltender this season that’s only gotten better now that he’s been temporarily thrust into the staring role. In his last two appearances, Miller has allowed only three goals for a .938 save percentage and 1.77 GAA – numbers that bring back memories of that 2009-10 campaign with the Sabres.
With the Ducks making the trip to Arizona after the conclusion of tonight’s game for a tilt tomorrow night against the Coyotes, it remains to be seen whether Miller or 1-1-0 G Reto Berra will take the start tonight. Should Berra get the nod, he brings a .926 season save percentage and 2.31 GAA in five NHL appearances into consideration.
Altogether, Gibson, Miller and Anaheim’s defense have united to allow an average of only two goals against per game in their past 10 games – the (t)best mark in the NHL since March 14.
As mentioned before, this game simply plays setup for tomorrow’s action. A win of any variety this evening gives Anaheim a one-point advantage on the Kings for third place in the Pacific – at least for the night.
An interesting – and likely dreadful – situation arises should the Ducks fall in extra time and only earn one point this evening. Currently trailing Los Angeles by five victories in the regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker, there’s no chance the Ducks succeed their bitter rivals if they end the regular season tied. Therefore, a loss of any variety this evening has effectively the same result for Anaheim: putting all its eggs in beating the Coyotes in Arizona tomorrow and hoping the Kings lose to Dallas at Staples Center.
If the season series is any indicator, the Ducks don’t have to worry about overtime tonight as neither of their previous two meetings with Dallas have gotten that far. February 21’s match on The Pond ended in a 2-0 Anaheim victory (Miller took First Star honors with a 41-save shutout), while the Ducks’ trip to Dallas on March 9 saw the Stars earn a 2-1 win (LW Jamie Benn scored the game-winner).
The Stars have already proven they’re willing to play spoiler now that they’ve been eliminated, and that spells major trouble for an Anaheim club that wants to win in the most desperate of ways.
This game should boil down to which Ducks netminder is between the pipes and whether he can best McKenna. With that in mind, I think Anaheim will continue its winning ways tonight.
Though they still have yet to clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins completed their season sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets by beating them 5-4 in overtime at Nationwide Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Everything fans look for in a good game was present in this tilt. Back-and-forth scoring; 44 combined hits; three power play goals… Should we get a second-consecutive playoff series between these clubs, it will surely be entertaining and extremely competitive.
The first period was a high-scoring affair, yet the four goals were evenly distributed between the two sides to leave a 2-2 score going into the first intermission. D Zach Werenski (Third Star of the Game F Pierre-Luc Dubois and LW Artemi Panarin) broke the scoreless draw 5:11 into the game, but First Star RW Phil Kessel (D Justin Schultz and C Sidney Crosby) took advantage of D Seth Jones tripping W Tom Kuhnhackl 4:39 later to level the game with a power play wrist shot at the 10:26 mark. Columbus once again took a one-goal lead when LW Matt Calvert (D Jack Johnson) scored a backhanded shot with 7:21 remaining in the frame, but Pittsburgh once again had an answer – this time a snap shot by Second Star RW Patric Hornqvist (Schultz) 2:56 after the cannon fired for Calvert – to tie the game once again.
After such a busy opening 20 minutes, perhaps its no surprise that only one goal was scored in the second period. With D Jamie Oleksiak in the penalty box for hi-sticking Calvert at the 4:59 mark, F Boone Jenner (W Thomas Vanek and F Sonny Milano) gave the Jackets their third lead of the game 6:35 into the period.
Obviously, that meant it was the Penguins’ turn to score next. That’s just what they did 2:58 into the third period, courtesy of D Kris Letang‘s (F Evgeni Malkin and Hornqvist) power play wrister. To the surprise of no one, the Jackets claimed their fourth lead of the night at the 8:25 mark when RW Cam Atkinson (Dubois and Panarin) scored a tip-in, but it lasted only 3:51 before W Conor Sheary (Kessel) scored the final goal of regulation to level the game at 4-4.
Only one shot apiece was fired in overtime, but Kessel’s unassisted wrister 1:06 into that five minute frame proved to be all Pittsburgh needed. Following G Matt Murray‘s lone save in overtime, Kessel collected the loose puck and began streaking towards the other end of the ice. Once he reached the left face-off circle, he ripped his blistering wrister to the far post, beating G Sergei Bobrovsky bar down.
Murray earned the victory after saving 26-of-30 shots faced (.867 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 38-of-43 (.884).
Even though the Penguins won on the road, the 101-54-22 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day are still riding a four-game point streak. Due to that, they still have an impressive 49-point advantage on the series’ roadies.
There’s not much happening in the world of hockey tonight, as there’s only three games on the schedule in anticipation of an important busy weekend.
First up is Ottawa at Buffalo (SN1/SN360/TVAS) at 7:30 p.m., followed half an hour later by Chicago at St. Louis (NBCSN). Finally, Minnesota visits Anaheim (SN1/SN360) at 10 p.m. to close out the evening’s festivities. All times Eastern.
In terms of percentages, there’s rivalries galore tonight. That will play an especially important role in Missouri, as there’s nothing more the Blackhawks want to do than spoil St. Louis’ playoff push.
However, the tilt that deserves the most attention this evening is taking place on the West Coast between two teams that, though they may not be rivals, are hoping to meet in the Western Conference Finals.
You’re hard pressed to find a hotter team in the Pacific Division than 41-25-13 Anaheim, currently the Western Conference’s first wild card. The Ducks have posted a 7-1-1 record over their past nine games to keep pace with the Kings in the race for third place in the Pacific.
As would be expected by a team with such an impressive record over the last three weeks, there’s been little Anaheim has done wrong during this run. With five skaters having scored at least six points in their last nine games, the Ducks’ offense is averaging an impressive 3.22 goals per game since March 14 to rank 12th-best in the NHL in that time.
However, the Ducks’ attack has paled in comparison to their effort on the defensive end. Led by D Francois Beauchemin (1.6 blocks per game since March 14), C Ryan Getzlaf (13 takeaways in his last eight games) and D Josh Manson (3.6 hits per game during this run), Anaheim has allowed only 30.22 shots against per game since March 14, the eighth-lowest mark in the NHL in that span.
A major note concerning Anaheim’s defense this evening is the absence of D Cam Fowler, who took a strong hit from W Blake Comeau along the boards in Sunday’s game against Colorado. He’d been averaging two blocks per game during the Ducks’ impressive streak and will leave a sizable hole for whoever fills his spot on the blue line.
That being said, it’s not like 31-18-7 G John Gibson has needed all that much help to find success. Having posted a .926 save percentage and 2.43 GAA for the entire season, his defense playing so well in front of him lately has helped him manage an even better .936 save percentage and 1.9 GAA in his last nine starts.
Between Gibson and his defense, Anaheim has allowed only 2.11 goals against per game since March 14, the third-best mark in the NHL over the past three weeks.
Unfortunately, Gibson was another victim of the Avalanche on Sunday, and his upper-body injury is going to make him unavailable for at least tonight’s game. That puts 9-6-6 G Ryan Miller, who completed the 4-3 overtime victory against the Avs, in the spotlight for the undetermined future. Miller has managed a .925 save percentage and 2.51 GAA for the season.
Based on those marks being comparable to Gibson’s and the defense the Ducks have been playing lately, I’d assume it will be business as usual on The Pond this evening provided Fowler’s replacement can perform half as well as he usually does.
Another team playing some spectacular hockey of late are the 44-25-10 Wild, the Central Division’s third place club. Minnesota has posted a 5-1-3 record over its past nine showings, including wins over Vegas and Nashville.
Both the Golden Knights and Predators are certainly capable of lighting up a scoreboard, yet they combined for only three goals in their losses to Minnesota. That’s been a normal occurrence for the Wild during this run, as they’ve allowed only 1.89 goals against per game since March 16, the (t)best mark in the league in that time.
Minnesota’s incredible defense has been a major reason for that success, as it has allowed only 28.33 shots against per game during this run – the third-lowest average in the NHL since March 16. Whether it’s been D Jonas Brodin (two blocks per game since March 16), LW Marcus Foligno (2.6 hits per game during this run) or W Jason Zucker (eight takeaways in his past nine games), the Wild excel at making life extremely difficult on opposing attacks.
Just like Anaheim, Minnesota will also be missing a vital part of its defense for the extended future. D Ryan Suter is out indefinitely with a fractured fibula suffered in Dallas Saturday night. D Carson Soucy made his NHL debut filling in for Suter in the Wild’s first game without him (a 3-0 win over the Oilers), firing three shots and throwing two hits in 15:26 of play on the third pair.
Part of the reason the Wild aren’t in terrible shape without Suter is because they have 34-15-7 G Devan Dubnyk manning the pipes. Though this campaign has been far from the 2015 Masterton-winner’s best – he has a .918 save percentage and 2.52 GAA on the season – Dubnyk has been exemplary when it matters most. In his last seven starts, Dubnyk has managed a .939 save percentage and 1.68 GAA, and he’ll be called upon tonight to stop a hungry Anaheim attack.
With the Wild making the trip into Los Angeles tomorrow night, there were questions whether Dubnyk or 10-10-3 G Alex Stalock, would be in net this evening. According to Michael Russo of The Athletic yesterday at 6 p.m. Eastern, Dubnyk has been confirmed as tonight’s starter.
Not only have the Wild already clinched a spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they need only one point in their remaining three games (or one St. Louis loss of any variety in its last three games) to be locked into third place in the Central Division.
That 5-7-2 record was a long time ago, wasn’t it Minnesota?
If only the future were so certain for the Ducks. Currently the Western Conference’s first wild card, there’s still a chance Anaheim could miss the postseason altogether.
Of course, two points tonight can make the Ducks’ footing a little more certain, as they would jump Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division with only two games to play for both clubs.
Both of the first two meetings between these sides were so close, they required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.
Game 1 took place on December 8 at The Pond, where the Wild claimed a 3-2 overtime victory (D Mathew Dumba scored the game-winner). However, Minnesota couldn’t successfully defend home ice when the Ducks came to St. Paul on February 17, as Anaheim stole a 3-2 shootout win (LW Nick Ritchie claimed First Star honors for ending the 11-round shootout).
The fact that the Ducks have an offense that is playing slightly better lately paired with home ice advantage leads me to thinking Anaheim should earn two points tonight. However, as well as Minnesota’s defense has been performing, it just might be able to force overtime to lock in its playoff position.
Led by First Star of the Game G Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s 33-save shutout, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 4-0 at Amalie Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Between Tampa’s defense holding the Bruins to only eight shots on goal and G Tuukka Rask saving all 17 shots the Bolts managed to send his way, this game had the looks of a tight affair after the first period ended scoreless.
That all changed in the second period, as Tampa registered three of its four goals in the span of 9:26, starting with F Brayden Point‘s (RW Nikita Kucherov and Second Star D Braydon Coburn) game-winning wrist shot at the 5:01 mark.
Kucherov deserves a lot of credit for setting up this goal, as the way he skated circles around LW Brad Marchand and C Patrice Bergeron to get the puck into the offensive zone would probably be a suitable audition for hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Once Kucherov reached the left face-off circle, he flung a pass across the zone to Point, who proceeded to rip his wrister from above the right face-off circle. Though it was a long distance, Point’s dart to the far post sneaked under Rask’s right arm and into the back of the net.
But the Lightning were far from done with that tally. D Victor Hedman (Coburn and Third Star RW Ryan Callahan) doubled Tampa Bay’s advantage 5:58 later with a slap shot, followed by LW Chris Kunitz‘ (Callahan and D Dan Girardi) wrister setting the score at 3-0 with 5:33 remaining in the frame.
Even though the Bruins out-shot the Bolts 12-3 in the third period, F J.T. Miller was the only player to score in the final frame. He buried his unassisted snap shot 2:34 into the period to set the 4-0 final score.
While Vasilevskiy was busy earning his eighth shutout of the season, Rask saved 32-of-36 shots faced in the loss (.889 save percentage).
With Tampa’s victory at Amalie Arena, the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a 100-54-21 record that is 48 points better than the roadies’.
Saturdays are a great day in the National Hockey League. Then again, Saturdays in March are pretty great in general even though we’re all going to be watching the sport on ice instead of flipping channels with that sport that started with a peach basket (ATLANTA HAD TWO NHL TEAMS!) and that Canadian guy (HOCKEY, EH!!) in Springfield, Massachusetts (AHL HOCKEY!!!).
Please ignore college basketball for one day, okay? Thanks guys.
So yeah, Saturdays are pretty great. Especially when you wake up and the heat is still running– thank you very much, power company.
While our usual DTFR Game of the Day writer, @connorzkeith, is day-to-day and recovering from minor upper body surgery, I’d like to extend a special “thank you” to @jdettro for filling in yesterday.
Thanks to the second nor’easter in about a week, I was unable to fulfill my scheduled duty of doing Connor’s job for a day as was originally planned. Luckily, the power is back on and I’m here to be the Daily Matchup boss for the day.
In the meantime, looks like New England’s going to get ravaged again by another nor’easter on Monday/Tuesday– so if this experience isn’t for you, don’t worry, my power will probably be knocked out again in a couple days.
Anyway, on with the show.
There’s a boatload of games (11, in fact) on the docket today and only one can be our DTFR Game of the Day, but if you’re trying to catch them all…
The puck drops first in the Hub of Hockey at 1 p.m. between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins nationally on NHL Network (NBCS Chicago and NESN in their respective local markets)– with the Vegas Golden Knights paying a visit to the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning (RDS) and Winnipeg Jets at the Philadelphia Flyers all facing off at the same time.
Two hours later, the Arizona Coyotes visit the Colorado Avalanche at 3 p.m. An hour after that, the St. Louis Blues try to climb back into the playoff picture against the Los Angeles Kings on NHL Network at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks square off at four in the afternoon as well.
If you’re content with watching NHL Network all day and sitting through the thousands of J.G Wentworth commercials, then you can treat yourself to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on NHL Network in the United States (CBC, Sportsnet & TVAS in Canada). If that’s not your thing, perhaps the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers are more of your cup of tea, because they’re also getting underway at seven o’clock.
The New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators face-off an hour later (8 p.m.) at Bridgestone Arena and the Minnesota Wild wrap up the night in Edmonton against the Oilers at 10 p.m. on CBC and Sportsnet in Canada. All times Eastern.
Here’s a few important ones circled on my calendar:
- Chicago at Boston: Tommy Wingels will be in the lineup for the first of this home-and-home series weekend matchup against his former team. Also, Boston’s without David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, so there’s that.
- Montreal at Tampa: If you like good Atlantic Division matchups, this is usually one of them, even if the Canadiens are in a rebuild.
- Winnipeg at Philadelphia: The Jets are scary good and the Flyers are physically scary, what’s not to love in the City of Brotherly Love?
- Arizona at Colorado: You would’ve laughed at me if I mentioned this last season, but the Coyotes are ruining their draft lottery chances by winning a lot lately and the Avalanche might be a wild card team this year, so…
- Washington at San Jose: Both of these teams have 81 points on the season and are 2nd in their respective divisions (Capitals in the Metropolitan, Sharks in the Pacific). Fight it out!
- Pittsburgh at Toronto: This could be a playoff matchup if the Leafs make it that far. In any case, it’s a Battle of Mikes behind the bench– Mike Sullivan and Mike Babcock.
Plenty of great match-ups to chose from, but only one can be our Game of the Day, after all. As such, let’s turn our attention to SAP Center, shall we?
Saturday afternoon is a great time to tune into the Washington Capitals at San Jose Sharks. Other than the whole “2nd place theme” going on, the Capitals are riding into San Jose on a two-game losing streak (a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday and a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday).
Washington is being outscored by the entire State of California (so far), 7-1. Braden Holtby‘s had no brakes going down the tracks all season and it doesn’t appear his defense is doing anything to help.
After allowing three goals in a little over 25 minutes against the Ducks, Holtby was pulled. Philipp Grubauer then only faced eight shots on goal, turning all of them aside.
An empty net goal was enough to seal their fate at Honda Center, however.
Head coach, Barry Trotz, gave Grubauer a nod of confidence in giving him the start against the re-surging Kings, but the night did not go as planned for the team with the league’s leader in goals– Alex Ovechkin with 40 goals thus far– being held off the scoresheet in both SoCal games.
Grubauer allowed two goals before the Capitals gave up yet another empty netter in the closing minutes at Staples Center.
For all intents and purposes, Ovechkin is two-goals shy of 600 career NHL goals.
If he’s able to get at least two pucks past a San Jose goaltender on Saturday, he’ll become just the 20th player in NHL history to score 600 goals.
Looking to recapture the momentum of their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium last week, Washington could use two points in regulation against the on-again-off-again Sharks.
San Jose, in the meantime, enters Saturday night 2-1-0 in the month of March, outscoring opponents 11-6. A 7-2 victory at home against the Chicago Blackhawks yielded itself to an embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Shark Tank.
Trade deadline acquisition, Evander Kane, has fit in pretty well with the Northern California based franchise, amassing 1-4–5 totals in four games since trading in his Buffalo Sabres gear for a new teal-colored sweater.
In fact, Kane has fit in so well, he’s rejuvenated the Pavelski line with Joonas Donskoi on the other wing.
Jones will likely see his seventh straight start, but that’s no worry for the plus-14 goal differential Sharks now that Burns has begun to find his rhythm alongside… Joakim Ryan!?!
The 24-year-old rookie defenseman has three goals and nine assists (12 points) in 58 games played and is a plus-10 this season.
Veterans Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are carrying their weight on the second defensive pair. Each of them are plus-7’s so far. Meanwhile Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo (try saying that ten times fast) solidfy the bottom pairing on the blue line.
It’s kind of hard to imagine where Joe Thornton will return to the lineup the way San Jose has been playing as of late. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing for someone who’s 38-years-old and still looking for his first Stanley Cup.
As long as the top-six forwards (Kane, Pavelski, Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker) don’t disappear when it counts, the Sharks should be poised to be a nice dark horse as long as they reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs down the stretch.
Despite being cash-strapped and weaker on defense, the Washington Capitals are putting together a solid season. Trotz’s team is offensively driven. It might just be enough to finally match the Pittsburgh Penguins style of constant offense in the Second Round of the postseason– but I’d hate to get ahead of ourselves.
Washington’s led the Metropolitan Division and they’re looking to regain the division lead with a win in any fashion on Saturday and a Penguins loss in regulation to Toronto later that evening.
In any case, whoever ends up in the Stanley Cup Final will have to go through a rigorous Western Conference team.
For San Jose, it could be three long rounds. For the Capitals, it might be any of the California teams they’ve played this week and, well, they’ve got some work to do.
Regardless, the Sharks want to stay hot and remain competitive– firmly in the grasp of a Pacific Division playoff spot instead of a wild card manifestation. Look for San Jose to take a bite out of Washington’s goaltending with their recent scoring prowess and 3-1-0 record through four games of their six game home stand.
The Dallas Stars took yesterday’s DTFR Game of the Day against the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 2-1 at American Airlines Center.
Ryan Getzlaf (10) kicked off the game’s scoring, giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Corey Perry (27) and Rickard Rakell (29) notched the assists on Getzlaf’s goal at 17:16 of the 1st period.
Benn (23) scored the game winning goal on another Stars power play at 14:50. Dallas blueliner, John Klingberg (50) reached the 50-assist plateau and Seguin (28) picked up his 2nd point of the night on Benn’s game-winner with a little more than five minutes remaining in regulation.
Dallas netminder, Kari Lehtonen, picked up the win with 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .963 save percentage. Ducks goaltender, Ryan Miller, allowed two goals on 37 shots for a .946 SV% in the loss.
The Stars were 2/2 on the power play, while Anaheim failed to convert on three man-advantages. Dallas travels to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night matchup at PPG Paints Arena on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET).
Anaheim is off until Monday night on home ice at Honda Center against the St. Louis Blues (10 p.m. ET).
Welcome to my first (and probably last after how bad that pun was) attempt at the ‘Daily Matchups’ column.
The weekend is here and the NHL has a limited schedule, but some solid games are on tap this evening.
The night begins at 7:00 p.m. with the Red Wings from Detroit making a short drive down to Columbus to take on the streaking Blue Jackets. Action continues at 7:30 p.m., with a Canadian clash between the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames. Our Game of the Day selection begins at 8:30 p.m. Buckle your seatbelts because the Anaheim Ducks are visiting the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center and precious points are on the line. Drink your coffee if you plan to watch Minnesota v. Vancouver. The nightcap game starts at 10:30 p.m.
If you take a glance at the standings, you will quickly realize that the Ducks and Stars are in must-win mode. Both teams currently have 80 points, which is good enough for a playoff position, but there are plenty of teams behind them looking to change that. This is the point in the season that teams are in desperate need of points and are looking for any way to win.
The last time these two teams played, it was a bit of a snooze-fest. Anaheim took a 1-0 decision, with the lone goal coming off the stick of Hampus Lindholm. With the circumstances being a bit different this time around, expect a little more back-and-forth action this evening. It is worth noting that the Ducks are on the second half of a back-to-back, while the Stars have had a couple days off. It is entirely possible a well-rested Ben Bishop shuts down his end of the ice, making this a one-sided affair.
Anaheim enters tonight’s game at 34-22-12 after dropping last night’s contest to the Nashville Predators. The Stars have managed a record of 37-24-6, entering tonight’s game coasting through a two-game losing streak.
For the Ducks, your player to watch will be goaltender Ryan Miller. He is the likely starter, coming into tonight with a 2.52 GAA and a 0.925 SV%. The defensive corps will need to step up against talented offense if they want to help Miller keep pucks out of the net.
For the Dallas Stars, look for the offensive tandem of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn to go to work. They have all eclipsed 55+ points on the season and are more than capable of taking advantage of a weary opponent.
As already alluded to, last nights Game of the Day was a victory for the home team. The Predators and Ducks met at Bridgestone Arena, as Nashville went for their 10th consecutive win. Anaheim needed a win to continue their playoff push, while Nashville still has hopes for a President’s Trophy.
The Predators had a strong start out of the gate, earning them a 2-0 lead after twenty minutes. Craig Smith got them on the board at 5:26 of the first period, with assists going to Turris and Hartman. Ryan Johansen lit the lamp at 15:20 to double-up their lead.
In the second period, there was plenty of back-and-forth play, but neither team would find twine. That is, until the Predators took a penalty towards the end of the second frame. The Ducks looked to capitalize on this opening, but instead, gave up a short-handed goal. Austin Watson was the contributor here, widening the gap to 3-0.
Entering the final stanza, Anaheim needed some help. They mustered up a big third period to shorten the lead. Rickard Rakell scored at 6:04 of the third, with Nashville now holding the dreaded 3-1 lead. To make things a bit more interesting, Rakell found twine at 16:35 to cut the deficit once again. Getzlaf assisted on both goals, earning himself two points on the night. The valiant rally wouldn’t be enough, as Viktor Arvidsson slammed the door shut. His score in the final two minutes would be the last tally, earning Nashville a 4-2 win.