Tag Archives: Seguin

October 12 – Day Nine – The Kevin Peter Hall game

If you have no idea who the title is referring to, maybe today’s selection can help.

Action is slightly delayed this evening, as our first two contests (Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay [SN360/TVAS] and St. Louis at Florida) don’t drop the puck until 7:30 p.m. Dallas pays a visit to Nashville at 8 p.m., followed by Minnesota at Chicago half an hour later. Another pair of contests (Winnipeg at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona) get the green light at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Buffalo at San Jose – getting underway 30 minutes later. All times Eastern.

There’s two games from that selection that have drawn my eye. The Wild-Blackhawks rivalry is always fun to take in, but I’m surprisingly more drawn to a meeting between between two 1-2-0 clubs.

 

Still can’t figure it out? Hall was the person in the Predator suit in the first two Predator movies. He’s the star of Predator!

Sure, I could have gone with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that would have been too easy.

Anyways…

Coming off an offseason of high expectations, both of these teams had a tough opening week to their campaigns. They both lost their opening two games (including an embarrassing 4-0 loss by the Predators to Pittsburgh in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals) before winning their contests on Tuesday.

Starting with visiting Dallas, this was supposed to be an offense that eclipsed that of 2015-’16, yet the Stars have averaged only 2.33 goals-per-game to start the season ([t]third-worst in the league).

Part of the problem has been the goaltending they’ve squared off against. Both Jake Allen (.93 save percentage and 2.58 GAA) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.963 save percentage and 1.32 GAA) have yet to lose a game in three starts and – especially Fleury – have been among the league’s best.

Even though the super line of Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov didn’t find the back of the net, Dallas proved what it is truly capable of Tuesday against G Petr Mrazek. With the exception of the top power play unit scoring late in the first period, the middle two lines began flexing their muscles by scoring the remaining three goals (shh, no one needs to know that C Martin Hanzal‘s first goal of the year was an empty netter).

While the offense assumes its form, it’s been the superb play of G Ben Bishop that has been keeping the Stars competitive in all their games. So far this season he’s posted a .955 save percentage and 1.15 GAA, including what could have been a shutout if he hadn’t been forced from the Vegas game on opening night.

Of the numerous signings made across the league, few improved a team as immensely as this one did for Dallas. Add in the fact that the Stars also added D Marc Methot to a formerly flimsy defensive corps and you find a Dallas team ready to shoot for the stars (that was so lame).

As for the Predators, they’re just trying to live up to qualifying for last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. No big deal, right?

That postseason effort was largely dependent on a defensive corps that also had a scoring touch as golden as their sweaters, and maybe it’s the absence of that flair that has held Nashville back so far this young season. Beyond D P.K. Subban and his four assists, only two other blue liners have contributed on offense. Even more noticeable is that none of those defensive points are goals.

It would seem D Ryan Ellis‘ absence is certainly being felt, as he posted 16-22-38 totals last season for .54 points-per-game. He would have notched at least one point by now.

And as dependable as Bishop has been for the Stars, G Pekka Rinne has been below-average to star the season. He’s managed only an .869 save percentage for an atrocious 4.16 GAA – and he didn’t even play in the four-goal loss to Pittsburgh.

With such an offensively-minded D-corps, elite play from Rinne is an absolute necessity. To put it bluntly, forcing the defense to actually focus on playing defense (that’s not a knock on this group, but we all know they’re almost always planning their next attack) takes such a major weapon away from this Nashville team. Head Coach Peter Laviolette cannot afford for this solid team to be in the wrong year of Rinne’s “good year, bad year” routine.

If anything is starting to go right for the Predators, it’s their power play. The man-advantage, specifically the top unit, played an integral role in the Preds’ comeback win Tuesday from a 4-3 deficit in the third period. Nashville has converted 31.3 percent of its man-advantages, which ties with the Rangers for the second-best effort in the NHL.

Though it was great to get that win over Philadelphia, I still don’t think all the Preds are mentally back from summer vacation. Having said that, I’m leaning towards Dallas pulling off the victory tonight, whether the game is over after 60 minutes or requires a shootout.


The machine that is the Pittsburgh Penguins seems to have rediscovered its groove, as they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the Verizon Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins employed a goal-per-period strategy last night that the Caps nearly matched, failing to score in the first period. Because of that, does that make D Kris Letang‘s (W Bryan Rust and First Star of the Game RW Patric Hornqvist) first goal of the season, a power play wrist shot 5:22 into the game, the game-winner?

Unfortunately for Letang, we all know the answer to that question is technically ‘no.’ Sorry, buddy.

Pittsburgh registered its second power play goal of the night 8:20 into the second period, courtesy of Hornqvist (W Tom Kuhnhackl and C Sidney Crosby), another first-time goalscorer for the 2017-’18 season. The Penguins almost took a two-goal advantage into the second intermission, but Second Star D Christian Djoos (C Lars Eller and W Brett Connolly) sneaked a slap shot past G Matthew Murray with 53 seconds remaining in the frame to pull Washington back within a goal. Just like the goalscorers before him, Djoos’ marker was his first of the season, but this one was extra special: tonight was also his NHL debut.

Apparently Head Coach Mike Sullivan was none too pleased about Djoos’ late marker, as Third Star W Conor Sheary (D Justin Schultz and D Olli Maatta) provided what proved to be the true game-winner 38 seconds into the third period.

The play truly started with five seconds remaining in the second period when RW Alex Chiasson earned himself a seat in the penalty box for getting caught holding D Brian Dumoulin. As far as action on the ice is concerned, the scoring play began with Maatta at the blue line. Seeing Schultz undefended – due to the Capitals being shorthanded – in the face-off circle to G Braden Holtby‘s right, he passed to his fellow defenseman who quickly centered a pass to Sheary waiting in Holtby’s crease. Though the 25-year-old began falling while performing his tip-in, the redirection was just enough to beat Holtby to the post.

W Alex Ovechkin (Djoos and C Nicklas Backstrom) did pull Washington back within a goal with 7:09 remaining in regulation, but neither he, F T.J. Oshie nor any of the other Capitals could complete the comeback in the remaining time.

Murray earned the victory after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (.909), leaving the loss to Holby, who saved 33-of-36 (.917).

Pittsburgh’s road victory snaps what was a four-game winning streak for the 5-3-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That being said, hosts still have a two-point advantage over roadies in the competition.

October 6 – Day Three – Welcome to the league

Man, a week goes by fast when there’s hockey involved. All of a sudden it’s Friday!

Speaking of, we have three games on the schedule tonight in anticipation of a 15-game Saturday. The action starts at 7 p.m. with the New York Islanders visiting Columbus, followed half an hour by Florida at Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup. Finally, Vegas heads to Dallas (NHLN/SN360/TVAS) to close out the night at 8:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

There’s only one chance for a franchise to play its first NHL game, so is there any doubt which game we’re featuring tonight?

 

 

 

 

 

Now that it is officially game day for the Golden Knights, allow us at Down the Frozen River to welcome Vegas to the NHL!

Officially, the process of bringing the NHL’s 31st team to Las Vegas began in late 2014 when Commissioner Gary Bettman allowed Bill Foley to test the season ticket market, though the league has had a presence in the city since the early 90s (not counting the bookies).

Over 13,000 season tickets and 18 months later, the Golden Knights were approved for business and preparing to start winning hockey games.

Unfortunately, history is not on their side in this contest. The last expansion franchises to win their opening games were Tampa Bay (7-3 against Chicago) and Ottawa (5-3 against Montréal) in the 1992-’93 season. Since then, expansion teams have gone a dreadful 0-6-1 in their first-ever regular season games, getting outscored 25-11 in the process.

Ouch. Maybe the Golden Knights can do better.

For them to buck the trend, they’ll need exemplary play from stars like G Marc-Andre Fleury, F Jon Marchessault and W Reilly Smith. Considering Vegas’ lack of an effective blue line and the prowess of the Stars’ forwards (more on them in a minute), Fleury’s job description is simple even though it’s not simply filled.

And it’s with that in mind that puts even more pressure on the Knights’ forwards. Given that Dallas doesn’t necessarily play the best defense in the league, Marchessault, and Smith will hopefully be able to find some chemistry on the top line with C Vadim Shipachyov to keep Vegas competitive.

In addition to playing their first game, the Knights are also bringing with them some the Stars’ old friends. In particular, C Cody Eakin spent the last five seasons in Dallas before being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. During his tenure in the Lone Star State he registered solid 61-85-146 totals, but last season’s 3-9-12 performance was a drastic decline that forced General Manager Jim Nill to leave him exposed.

Speaking of Nill, now that Eakin is on the Golden Knights’ second line, he had the opportunity to make some much needed changes to the Stars’ roster. After finishing 15 points behind the eighth-seeded Predators last season, Nill was able to improve his team by adding the likes of G Ben Bishop, C Martin Hanzal, D Marc Methot and RW Alexander Radulov.

Pair that group of players, who should provide at least a 10-point improvement in the standings compared to last year’s team, with Dallas’ mainstays of LW Jamie Benn and F Tyler Seguin and you find a club that should have something to say about the Blackhawks winning the Central Division for a second-straight season.

Considering the poor history of expansion teams in their first regular season showing and the fact that RW David Clarkson, F Mikhail Grabovski, W James Neal and D Clayton Stoner are all on injured reserve, I’m not expecting much from the Golden Knights this evening. Instead, I’m going to be enthralled by what could be the best top-line in hockey (Benn-Seguin-Radulov) backed by the first number one goaltender Dallas has seen in years.


Of all the teams to make it a priority to defend their new home, I suppose I should have pegged Detroit, who beat Minnesota 4-2 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings scored two goals in 23 seconds – both courtesy of their second power play unit. First Star of the Game W Anthony Mantha (RW Martin Frk and Third Star D Mike Green) claimed the honor of scoring the first goal in arena history by burying a five-on-three wrist shot with 5:20 remaining. Under normal power play conditions, that lead doubled 23 seconds later when F Dylan Larkin (Green and Mantha) tipped a loose puck past G Devan Dubnyk.

Not to be outdone, the Wild had a scoring blitz of their own, starting with C Joel Eriksson Ek‘s (W Chris Stewart and LW Marcus Foligno) wrister two minutes into the third period, followed by Stewart’s (F Tyler Ennis and D Kyle Quincey) wrister only 48 seconds later to level the game at two-all.

The tie lasted 4:19 before F Henrik Zetterberg (Green and F Tomas Tatar) found the game-winning snap shot on his stick. From between the face-off circles, he collected a Green pass deflected off W Jason Zucker‘s skate and fired it five-hole on Dubnyk to set the score at 3-2.

Frk (Mantha and Green) secured the win by burying a slap shot with 9:21 remaining in the contest, setting the 4-2 final score.

Second Star Jimmy Howard earned the victory after saving 37-of-39 shots faced for a .949 save percentage, leaving the loss to Dubnyk, who saved 27-of-31 (.871 save percentage).

After three games, road teams have a slight one-point advantage in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a 2-1-0 record.

January 19 – Day 96 – Worth his Weight behind the bench? We’ll see…

It’s time to start taking our hockey-watching seriously, as there’s only eight days until the All-Star break. The first two pucks of the night drop at 7 p.m. (Dallas at the New York Islanders and Ottawa at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by the New York Rangers at Toronto. 8 p.m. marks the beginning of another pair of games (Washington at St. Louis [SN/TVAS] and Arizona at Minnesota), with Nashville at Calgary waiting an hour before getting underway. Colorado at Anaheim gets started at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Tampa Bay at San Jose (SN/SN1) – waiting 30 minutes before getting green-lit. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Dallas at New York: Welcome to the coaching game Doug Weight.
  • New York at Toronto: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but Michael Grabner also played for the Leafs last season.

It’s been a long time since we’ve featured either the Islanders or the Stars, so let’s head off to Brooklyn!

Unknown-2New York Islanders Logo

 

A long, long time ago, in a borough not too far from Brooklyn

Wait, we’ve got to set the mood…

There we go.

Anyways, Jack Capuano was called up to the big-time from New York‘s AHL club in Bridgeport – where he had held the same position since 2007 – to coach the Islanders on November 15, 2010.

To put things lightly, it was not the miraculous transition you read about in history books. After taking on a 4-10-3 club from Scott Gordon, the Islanders ended the season with a 30-39-13 record and in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The 2011-’12 season was better, as the Isles improved to 34-37-11, but Capuano’s teachings could not get them out of the Atlantic basement.

Playoff chances weren’t looking good for the Islanders during the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 season either. New York sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 18 games remaining, due in part to the Isles spoiling a seven-game home-stand by earning only three points.

Let’s give credit to Capuano for New York‘s spark  to end the season. They earned a point in the last 11 games to force themselves all the way into eighth place in the Conference and earn a playoff date in Pittsburgh. Although they would fall in six games, making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 was a big step forward for New York.

Capuano continued to build the club. Even though they didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2013-’14, New York got back into the postseason in 2015 and missed out on advancing to the Eastern Semifinals by only a goal, falling to Washington 2-1 in a deciding Game 7.

The Islanders finally earned that playoff series victory last year when they beat the Panthers in six games. It was their first postseason series victory since 1993.

Unfortunately, this season did not get off to a great start. The Isles currently have a 17-17-8 record and sit in last place in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Because of that, he was released on Tuesday, even though his record with the Isles is an impressive 227-192-64, given the team he started with six years ago.

In what is probably the most hilarious turn of events, Capuano was replaced this season by none other than Weight.

Why is that funny? Any good Islander fan can tell you who the captain of their club was when Capuano made his NHL coaching debut. Yes, that’s right: it’s none other than Weight.

Even more hilarious is that Weight is the assistant general manager of the Islanders. Even though he wasn’t the one making the final decisions, it’s partially his fault that Capuano struggled this season. Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Brian Strait were all allowed to walk in free agency this offseason, and Garth Snow and Weight only brought in Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd (currently injured), P.A. Parenteau (who they’ve since waived) and Dennis Seidenberg to fill the holes.

Martin: left wing. Nielsen: center. Okposo: right wing. All three forwards. Is it any surprise the Isles have struggled to score? Last season, those three players combined for 135 points, a total the Isles have struggled to replace. That is made evident by an offense that has managed only 119 goals, the 12th-fewest in the NHL.

Captain John Tavares has done all he can to try to save the Islanders, as his 32 points lead the team. In comparison to the three forwards lost, he has the best points total, leading Okposo by three. Tavares also has the club-lead in goals, with 16 to his credit, and once again he leads Okposo by three tallies.

The issue with the Islanders does not seem to be their primary or secondary scorer, but instead the tertiary Brock Nelson. Even though he’s the third-best forward on the squad this season, his nine goals among 23 points are not enough of a threat.

The Isles‘ power play has been a major point of concern, as they tie for third-worst with their 13.6% conversion rate. Nick Leddy joins Tavares in leading the club in that effort with eight power play points, but once again the captain has headed the charge in scoring with four man-advantage goals.

While not as bad as the power play, the penalty kill cannot be ignored as it yields goals on 20% of opposing power plays, which ties for ninth-worst. Calvin de Haan may spend only 1:39-per-game on the penalty kill (well below Thomas Hickey‘s 2:08), but he certainly makes an impact. His 20 shorthanded blocks are tops on the team.

Visiting the Barclays Center this evening are the 19-19-8 Stars, the fifth-best team in the Central Division, and 11th in the Western Conference. Dallas‘ issue this year is the same one they faced a season ago: goaltending. They’ve allowed 144 goals against, which ties for second-most in the NHL.

With four more starts to his credit, 9-12-4 Kari Lehtonen has been the man between the pipes more often than not this season for the Stars. But as his record indicates, things haven’t been going quite so swimmingly. He has a season .9 save percentage and 2.86 GAA, which is only (t)40th and (t)35th-best in the league among the 49 netminders with 13 or more appearances to their credit.

Even though they know their goalie has struggled, Dallas‘ defense has only offered average help. Led by Kris Russell‘s 115 shot blocks, the Stars have allowed 30.2 shots-per-game to reach Lehtonen’s crease, tying for 14th-most in the NHL.

Lehtonen continues to struggle on the penalty kill, leading Dallas to a second-worst 74% success rate. Even with Mark Giordano‘s impressive 32 shorthanded blocks, Lehtonen saves only 79% of opposing power play shots – the worst in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on include DallasTyler Seguin (44 points [eighth-most in the league] on 28 assists [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) and New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.925 save percentage [fifth-best in the league]).

The experts in the desert have marked New York a -105 favorite to win tonight’s contest. Given the fact that both the Islanders‘ offense and Dallas‘ goaltending are poor, it boils down to who wins the other end of the ice. Personally, I like the Stars‘ offense more than New York‘s defense, so I predict a closely contested upset this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Sylvain Cote (1966-) – The 11th-overall pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by Hartford, this defenseman played most of his 19-season career in Washington. He finished his career with a +39, but notched a +60 over his tenure with the Capitals.
  • Ian Laperriere (1974-) – This left wing was a seventh-round pick by St. Louis in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career in Los Angeles. The 2011 Masterton Trophy winner, he notched 336 points before being forced to retire with post-concussion syndrome.
  • Mike Komisarek (1982-) – Montréal selected this blueliner seventh-overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 11-season career. He was voted to the 2008 All-Star game during a 227 block, +9 campaign – the best season of his career.
  • Thomas Vanek (1984-) – The fifth-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo (still his longest tenured club), this left wing is playing his first season in Detroit. Although he’s in the 12th season of his career, he’s on track to have one of his best campaigns, averaging .55 assists per night (ties his 2012-’13 effort with the Sabres).

Thanks to Third Star Joe Pavelski‘s second-period insurance goal, the Sharks were able to knock-off bitter-rival Los Angeles 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Brent Burns (First Star of the Game Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson) opened the scoring early, burying his snap shot only 3:31 after taking to the ice. The Kings were quick to respond, scoring only 2:15 later on a Tanner Pearson (Derek Forbort and Second Star Dustin Brown) tip-in. The score remained tied until 4:18 remained in the first period when San Jose‘s Tommy Wingels (Michael Haley) scored his snapper to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

That lead doubled to two at the midway point of the frame when Pavelski (Joel Ward and Thornton) scored his wrister, but Los Angeles pulled back within a score off a Marian Gaborik (Kyle Clifford and Brown) wrister. That set the score at 3-2 going into the second intermission, which ultimately held to the end of the game.

Martin Jones earns the victory after saving 22-of-24 shots faced (91.7%), with Peter Budaj taking the loss, saving 24-of-27 (88.9%).

The Sharks‘ win was a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it pulled the visitors within five points of the hosts. Home teams have a 51-33-14 record in the series.

November 28 – Day 47 – This time, in the style of B.B. King

All good things must come to an end. That includes the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Even worse, that signals the end of heavy scheduling, with only two games being played this evening. At 7 p.m., Calgary visits the New York Islanders followed an hour later by Dallas at St. LouisAll times eastern.

It’s been a week since we’ve featured a Western Conference team, and even longer since we’ve been to a Western arena. Add in that tonight is a Western Semifinals rematch, and we have to make our way to the Gateway to the West!

Unknown-2Unknown

 

 

 

I’ll admit that I’m a bit partial when it comes to the Blues, but this is what I remember from last year’s playoff series:

Game 3, the game where Ryan Reaves shared the love with Dallas‘ bench, was not a good showing by the Stars, as they fell 6-1 that night. That contest was not indicative of their series-long effort though, as neither team trailed by more than a game in the seven-game series.

St. Louis ended up winning Game 7 by the same 6-1 score to advance to the Western Conference Finals, besting the Stars by a combined 25-14 score against the best offense in the league last year. Of course, they would fall to San Jose in six game to miss the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dallas enters tonight’s game with a 9-8-5 record, barely on the outside of the playoff picture that is slowly starting to form – we are after Thanksgiving, after all. The reason they haven’t broken into that bracket is simple: they let a lot of goals by. 72, to be exact, the second-most in the league.

Although time has been almost evenly split between the Stars‘ two netminders, Kari Lehtonen has spent a little bit more time between the pipes. In his dozen starts, he’s earned a 4-6-3 record on an .884 save percentage and 3.38 GAA, both ranking third-worst among the 48 goalies with six or more appearances.

Those numbers are exceptionally poor, especially for a team that has the aspirations Dallas does. He has to take responsibility though, because the defense playing in front of him has done a moderately OK job keeping pucks off his cage. Before Johnny Oduya was placed on injured reserve, his 44 blocks led the blueline. That responsibility now rests on Jordie Benn‘s shoulders, the active block-leader with 41. Those efforts have led the blueline to allowing only 30.8 shots-against-per-game, the 11th-highest in the league.

As one might expect, Dallas‘ penalty kill has faced similar struggles. They’ve negated only 78.7% of opposing power plays, the seventh-worst effort. Oduya was active on the penalty kill as well, notching 12 shorthanded blocks, but he has been forced to hand this mantle off to Benn, too, who has 11 to his credit.

Hosting them this evening are the 12-7-3 Blues. Sitting in second in the Central Division, the Notes have found their success scoring the puck, with 58 tallies to their credit.

Who else to be leading St. Louis‘ offense than Vladimir Tarasenko and his 22 points? How he fell to the 16th-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is beyond me. In addition to being the points leader, his nine goals is also tops for the club.

The success has carried into the special teams. St. Louis‘ power play ranks seventh-best in the league, successful on 21.3% of attempts. Kevin Shattenkirk joins Tarasenko with nine man-advantage points to lead the squad. The defenseman also ties for the team-lead in power play goals, but not with the right wing – instead, it’s Robby Fabbri who has also fired three extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has been even better than the power play. The Notes are second-best in the NHL at neutralizing their own penalties, refusing to yield a goal on 88.4% of opposing man-advantages. Captain Alex Pietrangelo tops the squad with 11 penalty kill blocks.

These teams have already met up once this year at the American Airlines Center, and the Stars took it to the Blues. They won 6-2, led by John Klingberg‘s two-goal night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include DallasTyler Seguin (15 assists [tied for third-most in the league] for 22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & St. LouisJake Allen (10 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]).

According to Vegas, St. Louis is favored by all accords to win tonight’s game as they have a -165 next to their name at most books in town. Seeing as they’ve done a good job keeping the opposition off the board, paired with an offense that will best Lehtonen, I’m confident the Notes defend home ice.

Hockey Birthday

  • Marc-Andre Fleury (1984-) – The 13-year veteran goaltender for Pittsburgh was the first pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Although he has two Stanley Cups to his credit, an emerging star in Matthew Murray has Flower’s future with the Penguins in question.
  • Mike Kostka (1985-) – Almost entirely an AHL lifer, this defenseman has played 85 NHL games with five different teams. His 35-game stint in Toronto in 2012-’13 has been his longest to date.

Ottawa must’ve read yesterday’s Game of the Day preview, because they didn’t seem to care for the high praise I was pouring on New York. They decided to spoil the Rangers‘ fun and shut them out for a 2-0 win.

The winning goal was struck after 21:54 of scoreless play. Second Star of the Game Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Tom Pyatt and Zack Smith) takes credit for the tally with a wrister. The lone insurance goal of the game found the back of the net with 3:49 remaining in the second period, courtesy of Third Star Mark Stone (Mike Hoffman)  on a power play wrister.

First Star Craig Anderson earns the victory and an extra shutout feather in his cap after saving all 33 shots faced, leaving the loss to Antti Raanta, who saved 18-of-20 (90%).

The roadies are pulling closer. After Ottawa‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory, the the home team has a 26-16-7 record, better than the roadies by only six points.

November 15 – Day 34 – The Devils went down to Dallas

As you might guess with only one game yesterday, there’s a ton going down tonight. It’s like your favorite bar – you know, the one that has all your favorite microbrews on tap? Perfect.

Anyways, we get started with three games at 7 p.m. (Ottawa at Philadelphia [RDS2], San Jose at Carolina and Washington at Columbus), followed half an hour later by another trio (Nashville at Toronto [TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Tampa Bay at Detroit [NBCSN]). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of a third triplet of games (Buffalo at St. Louis, Calgary at Minnesota and Chicago at Winnipeg), followed 30 minutes later by New Jersey at Dallas. Los Angeles at Colorado gets underway at 9 p.m., and the co-nightcaps – the New York Rangers at Vancouver and Edmonton at Anaheim – are an hour later.

Short list:

  • Tampa Bay at Detroit – Remember last year when the Lightning beat the Red Wings in the Eastern Quarterfinals in five games? Detroit does.
  • New Jersey at DallasVernon Fiddler wore green for five seasons, but he’ll be wearing white tonight at the American Airlines Center.
  • Edmonton at Anaheim – It’s a similar situation for Patrick Maroon. In his fifth year of service with the Ducks, he was traded to the Oil for a prospect and a draft pick.

Since he’ll only be making one visit to Big D this season, we’ll follow Fiddler back to his old stomping grounds.

New Jersey Devils LogoUnknown-2

 

 

The amount of restraint it requires me every time we feature the Devils to not post this song is almost unbearable, but given the subject material’s name, there was no way I could contain myself.

After a couple seasons in Phoenix, Fiddler joined the Stars before the 2011-’12 season to begin his five-year tenure. While in town, the center played 366 games – the most he’s played with a single club, even though he had an extra season in Nashville‘s system – to score 112 points, 69 of which were assists.

Fiddler certainly served his time with the club. Although they entered last season projected to find much success, times were not always so fun in Dallas. He and the Stars went 145-119-30 in his first four seasons in Dallas, qualifying for the postseason only once to be eliminated by Anaheim.

Of course, last year made it all worth it. Well, at least the regular season. With a 50-23-9 record, the Stars took top regular season honors in the Western Conference, but were upset in the quarterfinals by St. Louis.

This off-season, he joined New Jersey in free agency, and they’ve gone 8-3-3 so far for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense has left much to be desired, the Devils have been able to find success by keeping their opposition off the board.

Cory Schneider has started 11 games already this season for a 6-3-2 record on a .927 save percentage and 2.24 GAA, which ranks 11th and 14th-best, respectively, among goaltenders with six or more appearances.

What makes Schneider’s efforts more impressive is that the defense playing in front of him is only average, if not slightly worse. He faces an average 30.86 shots per game, which is a touch over the league average. Captain Andy Greene takes the most credit for limiting his netminder’s workload with 28 blocks to his credit, but he is the only Devil with more than 23 blocks.

That success has not translated well to the defensive special team. New Jersey ranks eighth-worst in the NHL on the penalty kill, negating only 79.5% of their infractions. To their credit, they have tried their hardest to limit trips to the penalty box this season, as Fiddler leads the club with only 13 minutes in the sin bin.

Jersey‘s power play is indicative of their offensive struggles this season. Successful on only 14% of their attempts, the Devils rank ninth-worst in the league and are about as far from being a threat as Newark is from Dallas. Damon Severson has been most active on the man-advantage with five points to his credit in that situation.

After a five game road trip throughout western Canada, the Stars return home with a 6-6-4 record on the season. While the offense has not performed like they did a season ago, the defense and goaltending is responsible for Dallas not being higher in the Western Conference table.

Kari Lehtonen has started nine games this season for a 3-4-3 record on a .891 save percentage and 3.18 GAA, which ranks fifth and ninth-worst among goaltenders with five or more appearances.

He may be the last line of defense, but Dallas‘ situation doesn’t lie directly on Lehtonen’s shoulders. Even with Johnny Oduya‘s 36 blocks, the Stars‘ netminders face 31.125 shots per game, which exceeds the league average by almost a full shot. It doesn’t sound like much, but it only takes one shot to become a goal and effect the outcome of a game, and even if it doesn’t trickle into the net, it is still another shot Lehtonen has to save.

As you’d expect, the penalty kill hasn’t treated the Stars very nicely either. Dallas faces 3.75 man-advantages per game (almost half a penalty more than the league average), but have only defended 76.7% to rank fourth-worst in the NHL. Either the kill has to improve or Dallas needs to find a better way to impose their will, because this combination is not working.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include DallasTyler Seguin (20 points [leads the league] on 13 assists [tied for second-most in the NHL]) and New Jersey‘s Taylor Hall (12 points [leads the team]).

It looks are bets are off in Vegas for this one, so hopefully that indicates a competitive game. Although I do believe that Dallas will be the better of these two teams come April, I think Jersey is able to get out of Dallas with the victory due to the Stars‘ poor netminding and their offense still searching for their identity.

Hockey Birthday

  • Yannick Tremblay (1975-) – The defensman was the 145th-overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Selected by Toronto, he only appeared in three seasons with the Leafs before five campaigns with Atlanta.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 4-0 in the only game played yesterday – thereby our Game of the Day.

J.T. Brown (Cedric Paquette and Braydon Coburn) takes credit for the first, and thus winning, score with 2:02 remaining in the opening period with a wrist shot. Ryan Callahan (Andrej Sustr and Victor Hedman) also scored in the remaining 20 seconds of the frame.

Two more goals were scored in the second period by Nikita Kucherov (First Star of the Game Steven Stamkos) and Vladislav Namestnikov (Stamkos and Kucherov) to seal the victory.

Second Star Andrei Vasilevskiy earns the shutout victory after saving all 34 shots he faced, while Jaroslav Halak takes the loss, saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 21-12-3, favoring the home sides by nine points over the roadies.

November 13 – Day 32 – More than movie Stars in Hollywood North

Time to close out the weekend. I know, it just started. The good times are so fleeting, aren’t they?

Settle in for some hockey at 2 p.m. when Los Angeles visits Winnipeg, followed a couple hours later by Dallas at Vancouver. 5 p.m. brings with it the puck drop of Minnesota at Ottawa (TVAS), with two more games getting underway at 7 p.m. (Boston at Colorado and Montréal at Chicago [RDS/SN]). Finally, tonight’s nightcap starts at 9:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers visiting Edmonton (SN1).

Short list:

  • Dallas at Vancouver: Dan Hamhuis makes his way home to British Columbia for the first time after spending six seasons with the Canucks.
  • Montréal at Chicago: In addition to being an Original Six rivalry, Andrew Shaw returns to the Windy City after playing their for five seasons.

It’s been a week of Game of the Day debuts, so we’ll continue that trend by heading to Rogers Arena.

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Hamhuis’ days in a Canucks sweater began in the off-season preceding the 2010-’11 season. After six successful seasons in Nashville, he was so intent on returning to his home province to play that he turned down offers from other clubs that far exceeded Vancouver‘s.

The defenseman made 389 appearances for his “hometown” team and notched at least 10 assists and 13 points per season. His first Vancouver campaign was the season the Canucks made the Stanley Cup Finals. He threw 43 hits to go with his six points that postseason, but suffered a sports hernia in Game 1 against Boston when hitting Milan Lucic, forcing him to miss the rest of the series.

Hamhuis moved on to Dallas this off-season in free agency for a two-year, $7.5 million contract. He’s already notched four assists to bring his career total to 252 apples. That effort has helped the Stars to a 6-6-3 record, including victories in their last two contests against the  Alberta-based clubs.

Just like a season ago, it has been the goaltending that has been the biggest issue for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen has started eight games this season for a 3-4-2 record on a .899 save percentage and 2.96 GAA, 12th and 14th-worst efforts, respectively, among goalies with five or more games played. He hasn’t gotten many favors from his defense, though. Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have had to face 31.2 shots per game, even with Johnny Oduya notching 2.27 blocks per game.

As would be expected, Dallas‘ penalty kill has suffered this season. Their 82 penalties are the most in the NHL, and they haven’t been able to back up their physicality, stopping only 77.2% of opposing power plays for 13 goals against. While the netminding hasn’t been perfect, all Dallas should need to do is avoid the penalty box to see vast improvements.

Vancouver enters the night with a 5-9-1 record, mostly due to their inability to score.

The Canucks are tied for last with Colorado for fewest goals scored with 27. Led by Henrik Sedin‘s nine points, no other Canuck has more than eight points to his credit. Sedin and brother Daniel Sedin each have five goals apiece to take credit for 37% of Vancouver‘s scoring.

In case you’re wondering, yes: more than two people need to get involved in the offense.

Part of the reason for the offensive struggles has been the poor showing on the power play. Vancouver ranks second-worst in the NHL with a 8.7% success rate. Having had 46 opportunities, the Canucks have left a lot of points on the ice.

Fortunately for Vancouver, the penalty kill has been close to exemplary by neutralizing 86.4% of their infractions to be sixth-best in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include DallasTyler Seguin (17 points [tied for third-most in the league] on 10 assists [tied for ninth-most in the NHL] and seven goals [10th-most in the league]) and Vancouver‘s H. Sedin (nine points [leads the team]).

Vancouver is marked as the +115 underdog this afternoon. Even though it’s not much, I feel like the betting line is a little extreme. The Canucks‘ forte is defense, something they’ll need against Dallas. I’m picking the Stars to earn two points, but I don’t know if it will be a comfortable victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gilbert Perreault (1950-) – The first pick of the 1970 NHL Entry Draft, the center of The French Connection played his entire 17-year career with Buffalo. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, he was a six-time all-star and the recipient of the 1970-71 Calder and 1972-73 Lady Byng trophies. The Sabres also retired his number 11 in ’90.

It took overtime, but Florida was able to make a winning debut in the DtFR Game of the Day series by beating the Islanders 3-2.

With only 22 seconds remaining in the first period, Brock Nelson (Calvin de Haan and Jason Chimera) buried a wrister to give the Islanders a one-goal lead that held into the first intermission.

Six seconds before the midway point of regulation, that lead doubled. Nick Leddy (John Tavares and Josh Bailey) takes credit for the power play tally on a slap shot, the lone score of the second period.

The Panthers began their comeback 8:56 into the final frame. Third Star of the Game Kyle Rau (Michael Matheson and Derek MacKenzie) scored his first career NHL goal with a snap shot to pull Florida within a goal. With 14 seconds remaining, Second Star Jonathan Marchessault (Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle) scored a slap shot to force overtime.

First Star Denis Malgin (Vincent Trocheck and Matheson) avoided the shootout by scoring with 46 seconds remaining in overtime, sealing the Panthers‘ victory.

Roberto Luongo earns the victory after saving 19-of-21 shots faced (90.5%), leaving the overtime loss to Jaroslav Halak, who saved 40-of-43 (93%).

Florida‘s win is the second-straight for the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series to set the record at 20-11-3, leading the roadies by 10 points.

November 10 – Day 29 – Great Stars of fire

The bartender just walked by. He asked if anybody wanted another hockey game. Considering how good yesterday was, I got a whole round for tonight. Hope that’s okay.

In all seriousness, we have quite a selection of games this evening, starting with three at 7 p.m. (Columbus at Boston, Minnesota at Pittsburgh and Anaheim at Carolina), followed half an hour later by four more (Los Angeles at Montréal [RDS/SN360], Vancouver at Detroit, the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay and San Jose at Florida). St. Louis at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m., and tonight’s co-nightcaps get underway an hour later (Dallas at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Los Angeles at Montréal: Tom Gilbert played the last two seasons in The City of Saints, but now he works in The City of Angels.
  • New York at Tampa Bay: It’s a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals from last year.
  • St. Louis at Nashville: Carter Hutton heads back to Nashville, where he played the previous three seasons, and with a chance to play to boot.
  • Dallas at Calgary: Jiri Hudler spent four seasons in the Saddledome, but now he wears white in that building.

We haven’t watched the Stars yet this season, so let’s head to Alberta with them.

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Hudler joined Calgary before the 2012 season via free agency, and the center’s impact was noticed immediately in the lockout-shortened season as he notched 27 points.

His final full season with the Flames was easily the best campaign of his career. In 78 games played during the 2014-’15 season, he narrowly missed averaging a point a game with 76 to his credit.

This was also the season that Calgary qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. Although his club fell in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was no fault of Hudler’s. He continued his success with eight points in 11 games, split evenly between goals and assists.

Following his career year, Hudler was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, the first Flame since Joe Mullen of the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team to earn the honor.

He was traded from Calgary to Florida at last year’s trade deadline, but was not offered another contract this off-season. He signed with Dallas in August, only 21 days before the start of the season. He has not had the start to the season that he would’ve liked, with no points, or even a shot, to show for an hour’s work. He has been facing an illness so severe that he was placed on injured reserve, but he has the chance to be activated this evening.

Those Stars enter the night riding a 4-6-3 record, a far cry from their expectations entering this campaign. While the goaltending is on par with last season’s (be careful, I don’t want you to read that as good), it has been Dallas‘ offensive drought that has caused their current predicament.

So far this season, the Stars have managed only 33 goals in 13 games, the 11th-worst scoring average in the game. Dallas‘ struggles can’t be pinned on Tyler Seguin, who has 14 points to his credit evenly split between goals and assists, but the rest of the team – including great forward like Jamie Benn – has yet to break the 10-point mark.

While I wasn’t planning on thoroughly discussing Dallas‘ defense, there’s one major pitfall that must be acknowledged: the penalty kill. The Stars‘ 75% kill rate ranks fourth-worst in the league. When paired with a team that struggles to keep the puck out of their own net at even-strength, they are not doing themselves any favors by committing 52 penalties – four per game!

The Flames play tonight’s game with the same record as the Stars but with the added note of riding a two-game losing skid. That’s where the similarities end though, as Calgary‘s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring is putting them in quite a hole.

Having already allowed 50 goals against this season, the Flames give up an average of 3.57 tallies against per game – tied for the third-worst rate in the NHL with Philadelphia. The blame rests solely on the goaltenders, who have been under no more or less pressure than the average netminder in the league in terms of shots faced per game. Brian Elliott has started nine games so far this season for a 3-6-0 record. In those games, he’s saved a poor 88.7% of shots faced for a whopping 3.33 GAA to rank worst and third-worst in the league, respectively, among the 24 goalies who have appeared in as many contests.

Offensively, the Flames badly need to focus on one important aspect of their game: the power play. Successful on only 8.3% of attempts, Calgary ranks dead last in the NHL in the category. On the bright side, it means that most of their goals have come against more difficult conditions, so at least they have that going for them.

Ahh, Caddyshack.

Continuing the thread of special teams, you would be wise to assume the Flames‘ penalty kill is equally as bad as their power play given the goaltending situation. For those who had second-to-last in the league, you win bonus points, as the Flames have stopped 72.4% of opposing extra-man advantages to rank better than only Chicago‘s horrendous efforts on the kill.

Some players to keep an eye on include Calgary‘s Michael Frolik (nine points on five goals [both lead the team]) and Dallas‘ Seguin (seven goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Las Vegas favors the home team with a -125, but I don’t like that the NHL’s most potent offense last season is coming to town to face one of the worst goaltending situations. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the Stars start getting things pulled together against a prone opponent.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Saleski (1949-) – This right wing was the 64th overall selection in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing 543 games in the league, all but 67 of which were with the team that drafted him: the Philadelphia Flyers, including the 1973-’74 and ’74-’75 Stanley Cup winning teams.
  • Mike Leclerc (1976-) – On the opposite wing, Leclerc was drafted 55th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim. He ended up playing 341 games over his career, 85.3% of which were with the club that drafted him.
  • Kristian Huselius (1978-) – Another left winger like Leclerc, Huselius was drafted 47th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, the club he spent 38.8% of his career with.

The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the first overtime game in our Game of the Day series since October 28.

Columbus struck quickly last night, scoring both their regulation goals within the opening 5:30. Second Star of the Game Boone Jenner (Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson) takes credit for the first goal with a snap shot only 1:23 after the opening puck drop. 4:06 later, Brandon Saad (Ryan Murray and Third Star Jack Johnson) scored a snapper of his own to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead, which held into the first intermission.

Anaheim‘s comeback began with 2:39 remaining in the second period when Rickard Rakell (Cam Fowler and Josh Manson) scored his fourth goal of the season. It was the lone tally of the second period, meaning Columbus still had a one-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes of play.

That lead lasted only 1:25 after resuming play before Nick Ritchie (Joseph Cramarossa) scored a wrap-around to level the score for the Ducks.

Three-on-three overtime lasted only 1:21 before First Star Zach Werenski (Alexander Wennberg and Saad) scored the winner with a wrister.

Sergei Bobrovsky earns the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), while John Gibson takes the overtime loss saving 15-of-18 (83.3%).

With that victory, Columbus improves the home squads’ record in the DtFR Game of the Day series to 18-10-3, favoring the homers by nine points over the roadies.

March 12 – Day 149 – Keep it in the Central

Dallas used a three-goal second period in yesterday’s Game of the Day to beat the Blackhawks 5-2.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it belonged to the Stars.  First Star of the Game Jason Spezza’s power play wrister found the back of the net after 11:08 of play, assisted by Jamie Benn (his 42nd helper of the season) to give the Stars the beginning of a lead they would not yield.

Only 1:09 into the second, Dallas doubled their lead on a Second Star Antoine Roussel wrister, assisted by Alex Goligoski (his 27th helper of the season) and Ales Hemsky.  3:57 later, a Tyler Seguin wrister, which ended up being the game winner, crossed the goal line to set the score at 3-0 (his 33rd tally of the season), assisted by Spezza.  Forty-two seconds after the midway point of the game, Benn tipped a power play shot into goal, assisted by Patrick Eaves and Seguin (his 37th helper of the season).  The Hawks got one goal back only 2:19 later with a snap shot from Teuvo Teravainen, who was assisted by Tomas Fleischmann and Erik Gustafsson (his 12th helper of the season), setting the score at 4-1 going into the second intermission.

Hemsky improved the Stars‘ advantage to 5-1 with 4:31 remaining in regulation, assisted by Johnny Oduya (his 15th helper of the season) to the empty netter, but Fleischmann’s scored with 59 seconds remaining on the clock, returning the spread to three goals.  He was assisted by Dale Weise and Niklas Hjalmarsson (his 18th helper of the season).

Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 21 of 23 shots faced (91.3%), while Corey Crawford takes the loss, saving 16 of 20 (80%).  He was replaced after Benn’s tip-in goal in the second period by Scott Darling, who saved all 10 shots he faced.

Dallas‘ win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 66-38-15, favoring the home teams by 29 points over the roadies.

As usual, there’s a ton of games occurring this Saturday, with the action starting at 1 p.m. eastern with two games (the New York Islanders at Boston and Carolina at Buffalo), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Detroit (NHLN).  Four games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Winnipeg, Minnesota at Montréal, Toronto at Ottawa and Philadelphia at Florida).  St. Louis visits Dallas at 9 p.m. eastern (NHLN), and two games trailing an hour later (Nashville at Vancouver and Arizona at Edmonton).  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps get going at 10:30 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at Los Angeles and Washington at San Jose).

Four of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Colorado at Winnipeg, Toronto at Ottawa, St. Louis at Dallas and Arizona at Edmonton), and another set of four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Boston, New York at Detroit, St. Louis at Dallas and Washington at San Jose).

Although today marks the first return of Colin Greening and Milan Michálek to the Canadian Tire Centre since being traded on February 9, the game that most attracts my attention is St. Louis at Dallas, as the winner takes the lead in both the Central Division and the Western Conference!

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Tonight’s game will be St. Louis‘ 16th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-6-1 record.  Their most recent appearance in the series was Sunday, a 4-2 victory in Minnesota.  Dallas‘ win last night set their series record at 6-0-4 in 10 contests under our observation.

The 40-20-9 St. Louis Blues are currently second best in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  It has been their defense that has gotten them there, as the Notes allow the eighth fewest goals in the league, which has been necessary to cover up for scoring only the 11th fewest goals in the NHL.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blues‘ game can be found within Sunday’s article.

St. Louis is riding a five game winning streak, with their most recent being yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Ducks.  With a regulation win this evening, they would move a point ahead of the Stars for the division and conference lead.

Based on record alone, the 41-20-8 Dallas Stars are the class of the Central Division and Western Conference.  They’ve gotten there by scoring the most goals in the league, but some games have stayed tighter due to giving up the eighth most scores in the NHL.  A more in-depth analysis of Dallas‘ game can be found within yesterday’s article.

Yesterday’s win over the Blackhawks was important, as it propelled the Stars into the top position in the division and conference, but the Blues are challenging for that exact spot this evening.  Dallas will retain the lead even with an overtime/shootout loss, but they would certainly prefer to have a three point lead in the standings.

St. Louis has already won the season series 3-1-0, but their lone loss to the Stars this season did occur at the American Airlines Center.  These squads most recently met February 16 and played to a 2-1 overtime winner for the Blues in St. Louis.

Some players to keep an eye on include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (75 points [second most in the league], 33 goals [tied for fourth most in the league] and 42 assists [tied for eighth most in the league]), John Klingberg (43 assists [seventh most in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (70 points [tied for third most in the league] and 33 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Jake Allen (five shutouts [tied for second most in the league], 2.24 GAA [eighth best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for eighth best in the league]), Colton Parayko (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Vladimir Tarasenko (32 goals [sixth most in the league]).

I think that the Blues are fully capable of earning two points in Dallas this evening, as even their offense should be able to find success against the Stars‘ defense.

March 11 – Day 148 – Central Shootout

Well, I don’t think anyone expected that one.  The Edmonton Oilers won 2-1 in Minnesota in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Edmonton‘s first goal was the lone tally of the first period.  Lauri Korpikoski was responsible, as his wrister, assisted by Mark Letestu (his 11th helper of the season) and Adam Clendening, found the back of the net at the 9:55 mark.

The Wild did the same thing in the second period, as Zach Parise’s 19th score of the season leveled the score at the 11:04 mark of the frame.

The Oilers‘ winner found the back of the net with 7:29 remaining in regulation, scored by the first pick of this season’s entry draft, Second Star Connor McDavid, who was assisted by Zack Kassian and Andrej Sekera (his 19th helper of the season).

First Star Cam Talbot earns the win after saving 29 of 30 shots faced (96.7%) while Third Star Darcy Kuemper takes the loss, saving 23 of 25 (92%).

After tonight’s Wild loss, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 65-38-15, favoring the home squad by 27 points over the roadies.

Five games will be played this evening, beginning with Pittsburgh visiting Columbus at 7 p.m. eastern, followed by Philadelphia at Tampa Bay half an hour later.  The Anaheim at St. Louis game drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, trailed 30 minutes later by Chicago at Dallas (NHLN).  Finally, Arizona at Calgary, this evening’s nightcap, gets its start at 9 p.m. eastern.

Most of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Pittsburgh at Columbus, Chicago at Dallas and Arizona at Calgary), and two contests are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Anaheim at St. Louis and Chicago at Dallas).

Chicago and Dallas are currently tied for the Central Division and Western Conference lead, so you gotta believe we’re keeping an eye on that one!

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This will be Chicago‘s 20th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 10-7-2 record.  Their most recent showing in our series was February 25, a 3-1 loss on home ice to the Predators.  Dallas has been featured a little more recently, as they fell to the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime on February 29.  That was their ninth game in our series, and set their series record at 5-0-4.

The 41-21-6 Chicago Blackhawks are currently the best in both the Central Division and Western Conference, and trail only Washington for the distinction of best in the league.  To get to that position, they’ve played one of the most well-rounded games – the sixth best in both offense and defense.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 239 shots, the Hawks have fired the puck 2096 times, with 9.2% finding the back of the net for 193 goals (led by Kane’s 38 tallies), the sixth most in the NHL.  The offense has been spearheaded by the power play, as their 24.15% success rate, good for 50 goals (led by Kane’s 15 extra man tallies), ranks best in the league.

The defense has been just as good.  Even with Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 135 blocks,  Chicago has allowed 2094 shots to reach 35-16-4 Corey Crawford and co., but they’ve been nothing short of remarkable, collectively saving 92.6% for only 163 goals allowed, the sixth fewest in the league.  The Blackhawks aren’t perfect though.  Their special teams only neutralize 78.65% of their penalties – allowing 41 opposing power play goals in the process – the seventh worst rate in the league.  Never fear though, they do help themselves by having scored seven shorthanded goals so far this year, two more than the league average.

Chicago‘s last game was a 3-2 shootout loss in St. Louis on Wednesday.  As they are tied on points with the Stars, a win this evening is important as the season comes down to the wire, as the Hawks would like to clinch home ice throughout the Western Conference tournament.

The 40-20-8 Dallas Stars occupy second place in both the Central Division and Western Conference due to losing a regulation+overtime tiebreaker to this evening’s competition.  It has been the offense that has led the way, as the Stars have scored the most goals in the league, but they’ve also given up the eighth most goals against.

Led by Tyler Seguin’s 261 shots, the Stars have fired the puck an incredible 2195 times, with 9.8% finding the back of the net for 218 goals, the most in the NHL.  That success starts with the power play, as their 21.96% success rate, good for 47 power play goals (led by Jamie Benn’s 14 extra man tallies), ranks seventh best in the NHL.

It has been the defense, specifically the goaltending, that has held Dallas back this season.  Led by Johnny Oduya’s 146 blocks, the Stars have allowed 1980 shots to reach 22-12-6 Antti Niemi and co., of which they’ve saved only 90.4% for 196 goals against, the eighth most in the league.  The penalty kill hasn’t helped matters, defending only 79.9% of their infractions for 41 power play goals against, the 11th worst rate in the NHL.  To help make up for those goals, the Stars have scored nine shorthanded goals (led by Cody Eakin’s three shorties), four more than the league average.

Dallas lost their most recent game 4-3, a Tuesday night contest in Montréal.  With a win tonight, the Stars would reclaim the division and conference lead, but a loss could allow the Blues to take their second place position.

Dallas currently leads the season series 2-1-0, but is 1-1-0 on home ice.  The Stars won the most recent meeting 4-2 in Chicago on February 11.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (seven shutouts [leads the league], .929 save percentage [tied for the league lead], 35 wins [second most in the league] and 2.21 GAA [tied for seventh best in the league]), Kane (89 points [leads the league], 51 assists [second most in the league] and 38 goals [second most in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (62 points [10th most in the league]) & Dallas‘ Benn (73 points [second most in the league], 32 goals [tied for fourth most in the league] and 41 assists [tied for ninth most in the league]), John Klingberg (43 assists [seventh most in the league]) and Seguin (68 points [tied for fourth most in the league] and 32 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

Choosing a winner in tonight’s game is tough.  Both squads have exceptional offenses, which doesn’t exactly play into Dallas‘ favor, but should the Blackhawks commit a lot of penalties, this game can stay tight.  The overall better team is the visitors, so I’ll pick the Blackhawks.

February 29 – Day 137 – Detroit returns the favor to Dallas

The Tampa Bay Lightning took sole ownership of second place in the Atlantic Division by winning 4-1 in Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Bruins‘ lone goal was struck only 6:01 into the game, courtesy of  a Kevan Miller wrister, assisted by Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro.  Tampa leveled the game 5:18 later with a power play wrister from Alex Killorn, who was assisted by Anton Stralman (his 20th helper of the season) and First Star of the Game Ryan Callahan.  The Bolts took a lead they would not yield with their game-winning goal at the 14:39 mark, courtesy of Callahan, who was assisted by Killorn’s 21st helper of the season.

It was another two-goal period for the Bolts in the second, with their first coming at the 8:18 mark.  It was Callahan’s second of the evening, assisted by Second Star Steven Stamkos (his 23rd helper of the season) and Stralman.  1:46 later, Stamkos’ wrister (his 28th tally of the season) found the back to set the score at the 4-1 final.

Third Star Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 32 of 33 shots (97%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Tampa Bay’s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 61-34-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Monday night, with half of them getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Columbus at the New York Rangers [NHLN], Calgary at Philadelphia and Arizona at Pittsburgh), with Tampa Bay at Toronto dropping the puck half an hour later.  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Detroit at Dallas, and Montréal at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at New York and Tampa Bay at Toronto), and Detroit at Dallas is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although it is not the nationally televised game this evening, the most exciting is definitely the DetroitDallas game.

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Both sides have been featured eight times in the Game of the Day series before this evening’s game, but it is Dallas with the better record in such games (5-0-3 and 5-2-1, respectively).  Detroit was most recently featured in their 1-0 overtime loss in Madison Square Garden on February 21, while Dallas last saw action in the series on February 16 in their 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis.

The 31-20-11 Detroit Red Wings are, to put it plainly, an intriguing team, as they currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference (good enough for the first wildcard spot), but don’t play either end of the ice exceptionally well.

For starters, even with Danny DeKeyser’s 83 blocks leading the squad to allowing 1829 shots (exactly the league average) to reach 24-11-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92%, they’ve allowed 161 goals, only the 14th-fewest in the league.  The penalty kill is barely better, as their 81.86% kill rate ranks 13th-best, allowing 37 extra-man tallies.

The offense hasn’t done them any favors.  Rookie Dylan Larkin has a team-leading 164 shots to his credit and helped lead the squad to 1804 attempts, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 158 scores (led by Larkin’s 19), 10th-fewest in the league.  The offense gets even worse on the power play, as they are successful on only 17.17% of attempts for 34 extra-man goals, sixth-worst in the league.

All of that being said, the Wings are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent occurring Saturday in Denver, a 5-3 victory.  Should Detroit pull off a win tonight, they would advance past Boston for third in the division and trail second place Tampa Bay by only a point.

The 38-19-6 Dallas Stars are currently in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the best offense in the NHL, but they’ve been held back by also fielding the eighth-worst defense.

Led by Tyler Seguin’s 241 shots, the Stars have fired the puck 2033 times, of which an incredible 9.9% have found the back of the net for 204 goals, most in the NHL.  The offense has actually slowed down when on the power play, as Dallas‘ 22.11% success rate for 44 extra-man tallies (led by Jamie Benn’s 14) is only fourth-best in the league.

The major pitfall for the Stars this season has been in the defensive zone, specifically the goalie crease.  Led by Johnny Oduya’s team-leading 132 blocks, Dallas has allowed 1841 shots to reach 22-11-5 Antti Niemi and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.5% for 181 goals against, eighth-most in the league.  The penalty kill has been even worse, as the Stars kill only 79.26% of opposing power plays for 39 goals against, seventh-worst in the league.  However, those numbers are slightly improved by the eight short-handed goals (led by Cody Eakin’s three) to their credit.

Dallas is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being their 3-2 loss on Saturday to the Rangers.  Should the Stars defend home ice this evening, they would reclaim the top spot in both the division and conference by a point over the Blackhawks.

The Red Wings and Stars have already played once this season, but it was way back on November 8.  Dallas won that game 4-1 in Detroit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (70 points [second-most in the league], 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league] and 38 assists [10th-most in the league]), John Klingberg (42 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Seguin (68 points [third-most in the league] and 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+20 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.1 GAA [tied for second-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Although Mrazek has been impressive in net at times this season, it’s not often he’s seen an offense as proficient as the one in Dallas.  The Stars should easily hold home ice.