Tag Archives: Semyon Varlamov

October 17 – Day 14 – The Avs are winners?

Tuesdays are almost always full of hockey action, and tonight is no different.

There’s 11 games to be played this evening, starting with a trio (Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers [TVAS], Florida at Philadelphia and Toronto at Washington) at 7 p.m. and another two (Tampa Bay at New Jersey [NBCSN] and Vancouver at Ottawa) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of two more contests (Colorado at Nashville and Columbus at Winnipeg), while Arizona at Dallas waits 30 minutes before finding its green light. Carolina at Edmonton gets the West involved at 9 p.m., followed by Buffalo at Vegas (SN360) at 10 p.m. and Montréal at San Jose – tonight’s nightcap – half an hour after that. All times Eastern.

There’s a few games that stick out to me for various reasons…

  • Toronto at Washington: It’s an Eastern Conference Quarterfinals rematch, and a good one at that – Washington needed all seven games to advance.
  • Colorado at Nashville: After eight years in Tennessee, F Colin Wilson now finds himself a member of the Avalanche.
  • Montréal at San Jose: D David Schlemko could make his season debut tonight against the club he spent last year playing for.

Though Wilson was never necessarily the most important player for Nashville, I want to feature the Avalanche before they begin their fall to the bottom of the league table. We’re off to Tennessee for the second time in six days!

 

It may be early in the season, but I don’t think that’s stopping Avs fans from celebrating their 4-2-0 club being in second place in the Central Division.

In an even bigger surprise, Colorado is finding its success by being a defensive-minded team. Last season, the Avalanche allowed a league-worst 3.37 goals against-per-game, but that number has shrunk to a (t)third-best 2.17 through the first two weeks of 2017-’18 play.

You might think it’s G Semyon Varlamov standing on his head to earn these victories, but you wouldn’t necessarily be right. Though his .944 save percentage and 1.76 GAA are both top-six in the NHL among goaltenders with at least two starts to their credit, it’s actually been the defense playing in front of him that has played an even bigger role.

So far this season, the Avs have allowed only 30.7 shots against-per-game, the ninth-best effort in the league. D Mark Barberio and D Erik Johnson have both been major parts of that effort, as they both average more than two blocks per game, and F Matt Duchene has also made a positive impact with his team-leading eight takeaways.

And everybody thought knew he showed up to training camp with a bad attitude.

Second place is the minimum position many Predators fans predicted their club would be in after their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, but once again this talented squad is taking its time getting into regular season gear.

When the Preds are at their best, they play one of the best power plays in the game. Spearheaded by F Filip Forsberg‘s 4-1-5 totals on the man-advantage alone (5-2-7 overall), Nashville has managed a 29.2 percent power play success rate – the third-best in the NHL. Considering Colorado plays one of the worst penalty kills in the league, this might be a wild night if the special teams take to the ice multiple times.

Going off preseason predictions, it should be no question that Nashville should win this game easily. But, considering its 2.8 goals-per-game offense ranks (t)12th-worst in the league, that victory may not come as easily. I expect a close game, but the home fans should still leave happy.


It all came down to a deciding third period at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning were able to earn a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Some evenly matched games feature back-and-forth scoring, and others feature only one deciding goal. In this one, Tampa had a strong first period, while the Wings matched that performance in the second.

Third Star of the Game C Tyler Johnson started the scoring 9:15 into the contest by scoring a shorthanded wrist shot, followed by First Star RW Nikita Kucherov (D Victor Hedman and C Steven Stamkos) on a power play wrister only 101 seconds later to set the score at 2-0.

But like I said before, Detroit had all the answers in the second period. First up was Second Star W Justin Abdelkader, who buried an unassisted wrister 2:30 into the frame to pull the Wings back within a tally. D Mike Green (Abdelkader and F Tomas Tatar) completed the comeback with 3:58 remaining in the period, leveling the game at two-all with his first marker of the season.

He’ll be the first to tell you it was a lucky goal, but Kucherov (Stamkos and F Vladislav Namestnikov) was able to score the game-winning goal 107 seconds into the third period. D Trevor Daley had tried to clear the puck out of his zone, but it was intercepted by Namestnikov before it reached the near point and shoved along the boards to Stamkos, who was outside the trapezoid to G Jimmy Howard‘s stick side. Since Namestnikov continued to crash the crease, Stamkos returned the pass for him to attempt a shot, but the netminder was able to reject the offering. Fortunately for the Bolts, Kucherov moved in for the rebound and barely tapped the puck under Howard and into the net.

G Andrei Vasilevskiy earned the win after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (.935 save percentage), leaving the loss to Howard, who saved 23-of-26 (.885).

Tampa Bay’s victory snaps a two-game winning streak by the 8-5-1 home teams, but the roadies still trail by three points in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

Colorado Avalanche 2017-2018 Season Preview

Unknown-1Colorado Avalanche

22-56-4, 48 points, 7th in the Central Division (’16-’17)

Additions: F Andrew Agozzino, G Jonathan Bernier, G Joe Cannata, D Jared Cowen (PTO), D Jesse Graham, D David Warsofsky, F Colin Wilson, F Nail Yakupov

Subtractions: D Mat Clark (signed with HC Bolzano, EBEL), F Turner Elson (signed with DET), D Eric Gelinas (PTO with MTL), F Mikhail Grigorenko (signed with HC CSKA Moscow, KHL), F Brendan Ranford (signed with San Antonio, AHL), F Mike Sislo (signed with ARI), G Jeremy Smith (signed with CAR), D Patrick Wiercioch (signed with VAN)

Still Unsigned: F Troy Bourke, F Rene Bourque, D Cody Goloubef, F Samuel Henley, F John Mitchell, F Jim O’Brien, D Fedor Tyutin, D Nikita Zadorov

Offseason Analysis: Colorado Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, had one thing– and one thing only— to do this offseason– improve the team by any means necessary. The 2016-2017 Avs were the worst team in the lockout era (since the 2004-2005 season long lockout).

The 2006-2007 Philadelphia Flyers went 22-48-12, amassing 56 points along the way to collecting a -89 goal differential. The 2016-2017 Colorado Avalanche were eight points worse and had a -112 goal differential. So yeah, things were that bad.

Sakic could’ve traded forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog at any point this offseason, but he hasn’t.

While relationships between the front office and Landeskog may be mended the longer this drama goes on, the same cannot be said for Duchene. Colorado has promoted the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and others on their social media platforms all summer, but fans haven’t seen much of Duchene, save for photos from his wedding.

The rumor mill has gone quiet– we did just wrap up August after all, and that’s when all of the GMs go into hibernation, unlike Boston Celtics general manager, Danny Ainge, and Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, Koby Altman, but basketball has long been different from NHL offseason traditions.

Not to get all sports talk radio host on the Avalanche, but what are they thinking?

Duchene, whether he regains top-notch form or not, is a sought after, star-quality center that is only one season removed from a nearly 60-point year. Yes, 18-23-41 totals in 77 games played in 2016-2017 won’t cut it for most teams paying an expected first or second line center $6.000 million a year, but here’s the thing– Colorado was the exception to the rule in just about everything last year.

Carl Soderberg ($4.750 million cap hit) only had 14 points last season after amassing a career year in scoring (51 points in 2015-2016). Everyone’s production was off a cliff– or down a mountain, if you’d like– in Avalanche territory.

So Sakic had a chance to hit the reset button and completely shut things off-and-on-again (with the hopes that last season was the “off-year”) and brought in some help in the crease. Granted, that doesn’t fix their porous blue line and lack off offensive production, but Jonathan Bernier provides more of a cushion in case Semyon Varlamov goes down with another season ending injury.

Bernier’s 2.50 GAA in 39 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season was his best goals against average since his days in a Los Angeles Kings uniform (2007-2013). As one of the best underrated backup goaltenders, Bernier could soar with the right combinations on the ice in front of him.

Speaking of combinations, head coach Jared Bednar has got quite the conundrum on the blue line to figure out defensive pairings. Colorado’s oldest defenseman is 29-year-old Erik Johnson. That would be a good thing under normal circumstances, however, Tyson Barrie, 26, and Mark Barberio, 27, are the only other defensemen under contract with Nikita Zadorov, 22, in a holding pattern as an unsigned RFA according to CapFriendly.

That’s a lot of minutes split between three defensemen (obviously Jared Cowen is signed to a PTO and could receive an offer/any AHL defenseman in their system– ‘sup David Warsofsky– could fill out the remaining spots/trades could be made).

While Varlamov looks to bounce back to full health and the Mile-High City collectively prays for a mile-high miracle turnaround in offense, not much has changed. Sure Colin Wilson was acquired from Nashville and Nail Yakupov was signed, but one is a clutch depth scorer and the other is a former 1st overall pick on his third team in three years.

Down the Frozen River statistical models* show the Colorado Avalanche as a team that can put up around 80 points on the season, which is certainly feasible if everything falls into line, but it seems to make more sense to go with gut instinct on this one and predict the Avalanche will finish 31st in the league with a slightly less dismal (depending on how you look at it) season than last year.

Offseason Grade: D

“D” as in trade Duchene, add a Defenseman (or two).

*Coming soon, stay tuned. *eyes emoji*

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

Avalanche of Trades Coming

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1

We’re still about a month and a half away from this year’s NHL trade deadline, but it’s never too early to start talking about who might get traded or what teams will be active.

There’s a lot of chatter on Twitter in the last couple of days that Arizona Coyotes general manager, John Chayka, will be a busy GM from now through the deadline working the phones and trying to acquire assets. And of course, everyone knows the current dire situation of the Colorado Avalanche and the mountain of work that’s facing their general manager, Joe Sakic.

But let’s be realistic here for a moment– anything is possible.

Although, there’s probably one thing we can rule out at this point, and that’s the Montreal Canadiens trading P.K. Subban (because they already did that, in June, to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber— what have you been under a rock for the last several months?).

While the Coyotes are likely to be unpredictable past the potentially looming Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan deals, Colorado is sure to be playing host to this year’s trade deadline fire sale and mostly predictable in regards to who may be dealt.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie has had his name tossed around more than a few times in the last couple of seasons, but recently the Av’s have taken a long hard look at trading forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.

With everybody but Nathan MacKinnon at their disposal, Sakic remains firm on driving a steep price for either Duchene or Landeskog.

Moving Duchene would likely yield a forward or a defenseman, but not much more, as those teams that have expressed interest do not seem to be all to bent on a package deal for the center who has two-years left on his contract at $6 million AAV. The 30 goal scorer last season has had two 65+ point seasons aside from last year’s 30-29-59 totals in 76 games played.

Duchene remains a tremendous attraction, but one that has been quietly shopped, most recently inquired about by the Carolina Hurricanes as per Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater.

Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins remain very much in on trying to add a piece or two to their roster, as well as the Boston Bruins and just about anyone else, but that’s where Landeskog comes in.

It’s no doubt that Landeskog will be traded at some point or another. When is the golden question, considering how Sakic will continue to play hardball and could hold out until the Entry Draft in June when more teams are open to moving pieces that may or may not have previously been important to their successful/failed playoff run prior to June.

Boston has several pieces that they could be willing to move with Ryan Spooner, Joseph Morrow, Jimmy Hayes and others as “expendable”, however even the combination of Bruins GM Don Sweeney‘s dreams would not add up to the value of Landeskog alone or with other components.

Sakic is insistent on bringing home Colorado Springs native, Brandon Carlo, from the Bruins, but trading Carlo should be the last thing on Boston’s mind (along with disrupting any of their core players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask, just to name a few).

The B’s are buyers this season– and they have to be, in order to remain in the hunt, with Toronto a point behind after Tuesday night and five games in hand over the Bruins. But Boston cannot add and subtract, like they’ve seem to have done the last couple of seasons in lateral moves that have kept them complacent with their standing in the Atlantic Division.

Pittsburgh might be keen on moving a defenseman, such as Kris Letang, but Sakic remains stern on wanting to do more than just a one-for-one deal, considering the state of the rebuild in Colorado.

Of the teams with perhaps the best situation for trading (without looking into the salary cap, of course), the Los Angeles Kings could play the role of the dark horse that sweeps Landeskog away with a plethora of prospects in the AHL and a few options to trade from their NHL roster.

Any team that is willing or has room for Landeskog’s $5.571 million cap hit over the next five years is easily in the running behind closed doors and on phones we haven’t heard ring yet.

Among the other players likely to leave the Avalanche in an ever looming avalanche of trades, Jarome Iginla, Carl Soderberg, Patrick Wiercioch and Semyon Varlamov remain attractive options.

Iginla’s name has been tied to the Chicago Blackhawks in their annual search for an older veteran who’s looking to finally win the Cup, but there could be more teams at play, for the right price. Meanwhile, Soderberg’s name has gone under the radar, however he remains an attractive option for any team looking into solidifying themselves down the middle with a little veteran experience and NHL caliber seasoning.

Wiercioch appears to be the most expendable defenseman other than Barrie or Erik Johnson, but won’t pull enough weight in a deal on his own. A Wiercioch-Soderberg-something package certainly might be more appealing to a team looking to dump rental contracts in return.

Finally, Varlamov may be left exposed in the expansion draft if he isn’t moved prior to then. Certainly there are some teams that could utilize Varlamov’s starting goaltender status, including the Kings, Winnipeg Jets or others depending on their plans down the road (the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and/or Penguins to name a few).

Though if there’s going to be a goalie moved at or before the deadline, it’ll likely be Ondrej Pavelec, Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Fleury or Ben Bishop before other teams get on board with their plans to change things in goal before Vegas swoops in.

Look, it’s the end of an era one way or another for Colorado.

It’s just crazy that it might have to come down to trading Duchene and Landeskog (both top-5 draft picks in their respective draft years) to do so. Then again, things already got pretty crazy when Cody McLeod was sent to Nashville after spending his entire career until then in an Av’s uniform.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #40- Goalies Galore

We didn’t really start talking about goalies like we wanted to until almost 20 minutes into the recording, so if that’s what you came here for, sit tight a minute (or 20).

Numbers Game: Top-5 Pending RFA Goalies

By: Nick Lanciani

12:01 PM ET on July 1st (precisely) marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period, so of course, you’ve found yourself scavenging the Internet for the freshest hot takes and the best indications of where players will end up. Likewise, you probably just want to know who’s available out there (and I’m not talking about Tinder).

Well fear not, because I’m here to set things straight with a short series of posts about the Top-5 free agents in every category you can think of (UFA forwardsUFA defensemenUFA goaliesRFA forwards, RFA defensemen and RFA goalies) in this latest edition of Numbers Game posts. RFAs are fun, RFAs are cool, but here’s the thing, other general managers will hate you forever apparently if you offer sheet one of their guys. Also, shouts to you if you’re still reading these. That shows commitment. And heart. And grit. I’ll be done with these— for now.

Down the Frozen River- Smaller Circular Logo

1. G Petr Mrazek (27-16-0-6, 2.33 GAA, .921 SV% with the Detroit Red Wings)- $737,500 cap hit, 23 years old

Petr Mrazek is the only starting goaltender of this bunch and he’s due for a payday with the Detroit Red Wings. The only problem is, they still have Jimmy Howard and are paying him a bunch. So while Mrazek’s in the waitroom, you might as well give him a call if you’re a GM that needs a starting goalie that hasn’t even reached his full potential or tapped into his best play.

2. G Darcy Kuemper (6-7-0-5, 2.43 GAA, .915 SV% with the Minnesota Wild)- $1.250 million cap hit, 25 years old

The Minnesota Wild would be smart to keep Darcy Kuemper around long enough to turn him into a valuable asset that they could cash in, which sounds exactly like what they’re planning on doing. Let’s just say that Kuemper’s not a starter if Devan Dubnyk goes down with an injury, but until you find a rental replacement, he’ll be able to hold you over.

3. G Calvin Pickard (7-6-0-1, 2.56 GAA, .922 SV% with the Colorado Avalanche)- $850,500 cap hit, 23 years old

Calvin Pickard has the chance to be a decent backup, but is nowhere near the projections of taking over the number one spot in Colorado just yet. In a related story, the Avalanche should really keep him and get him a defense, just in case Semyon Varlamov gets hurt again and/or Pickard plays better than Varlamov for whatever reason.

4. G Anders Nilsson (10-13-0-2, 3.12 GAA, .901 SV% with the Edmonton Oilers/St. Louis Blues)- $1.000 million, 25 years old

Anders Nilsson has played in 52 career NHL games over three seasons and has never ended a season with a GAA less than 2.75, so yeah, offer sheet him all you want. Whoever owns him would be glad to get a 7th rounder (at best).

5. G Kristers Gudlevskis (0-0-0-1, 1.00 GAA, .969 SV% with the Tampa Bay Lightning)- $608,333 cap hit, 23 years old

Kristers Gudlevskis has had two solid starts to his NHL career as the presumptive backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy once the Tampa Bay Lightning eventually (probably) move Ben Bishop or lose him at the 2017 expansion draft to Las Vegas.

Honorable Mention

Me if I were still playing DekHockey (I forget my stats, good GAA, decent SV%)- $0 cap hit

I mean, seriously, there’s only 14 RFA goalies available (if that by 12:01) and there’s hardly enough to make a top-5 from them.

 

March 24 – Day 161 – All the wildcards

The New York Rangers made easy work of Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day, beating them 5-2.

Two unanswered power play goals in the first period set the tone for the Rangers.  The first found the back of the net at the 8:37 mark, scored on a Mats Zuccarello wrister, assisted by Third Star of the Game Keith Yandle and First Star Derek Stepan.  3:02 later, Stepan scored his own goal after assists from Yandle (his 37th helper of the season) and Second Star Henrik Lundqvist.  The Blueshirts‘ two goal shutout lead held into the intermission.

5:26 after resuming play, Derick Brassard scored the eventual game-winner (his 26th tally of the season), assisted by Kevin Klein and Jesper Fast.  Boston finally scored 26 seconds before the midway point of both the period and the game courtesy of a Lee Stempniak wrister, assisted by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron (his 34th helper of the season).  The 3-1 Rangers lead held into the second intermission.

New York took control of the scoring again 6:32 after returning to the ice, as J.T. Miller’s wrister crossed the goal line after assists from Stepan and Zuccarello (his 32nd helper of the season).  Frank Vatrano scored 5:34 later for the Bruins on a snap shot, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 28th helper of the season) and Zdeno Chara.  The final goal of the game was scored with 2:53 remaining, scored by Rick Nash on an empty net.

Lundqvist earns the win after saving 39 of 41 shots faced (95.1%), while Jonas Gustavsson takes the loss, saving 13 of 15 (86.7%).  He replaced Tuukka Rask after the first intermission, as Rask saved only six of eight shots faced (75%).

The third straight home win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 73-41-17, favoring the home squads by 35 points over the roadies.

Yesterday’s reprieve sets us up for an exciting Thursday schedule.  Three games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Florida at Boston [TVAS], New Jersey at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more (Anaheim at Toronto and Montréal at Detroit [NHLN/RDS]).  Another trio gets started at 8 p.m. eastern (Vancouver at Nashville [SN360], Calgary at Minnesota and Los Angeles at Winnipeg), with Philadelphia at Colorado trailing an hour later.  Dallas at Arizona gets its start at 10 p.m. eastern, and Edmonton at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, follows 30 minutes later.

Five of the 11 games taking place tonight are division rivalries (Florida at Boston, New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Carolina at Columbus, Montréal at Detroit and Edmonton at San Jose), but only Florida at Boston is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

You might think I’d choose the PanthersBruins game, but since that one doesn’t have immediate impact on the standings, I’m more interested in Philadelphia at Colorado.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoUnknown-1

 

In addition to both appearing in the Game of the Day series six times before tonight’s game, both Philadelphia and Colorado own 4-2-0 records in those games.  Philadelphia was last featured Saturday in their 4-1 home loss to the rival Penguins, and Colorado last played in the series March 1, a 6-3 loss in Minnesota.

The 35-24-13 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard spot.  To get into that position, they’ve played the 15th best defense, but it’s been backed by the 10th worst offense.  A more in-depth breakdown of Philly‘s game can be found within Saturday’s article.

The Flyers last played to a 3-2 shootout loss in Columbus on Tuesday.  A win tonight for the Flyers is very important, as the Red Wings are also in action this evening, and playing Montréal to boot – a much weaker opponent than the Avalanche.  An added bonus to winning is pulling within two points of the idle Islanders for the first wildcard spot.

The  38-31-4 Colorado Avalanche are currently sixth in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference, making them the first team left out of the playoff picture.  Offense has led the way, as they rank 14th best in scoring, but 11th worst in defense.

The injured Nathan MacKinnon’s 245 shots have led the Avalanche to firing the puck only 2108 times, but 9.2% have found the back of the net for 198 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 29 tallies), the 14th most in the league.  They step up the pressure on the power play, as Colorado‘s 19.41% success rate, good for 46 power play goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s dozen extra man tallies), ranks 11th best in the NHL.

Even with Francois Beauchemin’s 236 blocks, the Avs have allowed a whopping 2317 shots to reach 26-18-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 204 goals against, the 11th most in the league.  Although the defense as a whole hasn’t been that strong, Colorado definitely clamps down on the penalty kill, neutralizing 82.1% of their penalties for 41 power play goals against, the ninth best rate in the league.  Further improving on that solid rate, the Avalanche have also scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

The Avalanche are currently riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being Sunday’s 3-2 win in Edmonton.  Just like Philadelphia, Colorado‘s main playoff competition, the Minnesota Wild, is playing this evening against a weaker opponent, the Calgary Flames.  As the Wild have only a one point lead over the Avs, a Colorado win paired with anything less than a Wild win would propel Colorado into the second wildcard.

Colorado has already made their yearly visit to Philadelphia, and they certainly enjoyed their time in the City of Brotherly Love, winning on a four-goal shutout on November 10.

Some players to keep an eye on include Colorado‘s Duchene (56 points, 29 of which are goals, with 21 at even strength [all lead the team]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [fifth best in the league] and 2.28 GAA [10th best in the league]).

Colorado seems to be the better team, both statistically and given their three game winning streak.  Add that in with the fact that they are hosting this evening’s contest, it should be an Avalanche winner.

March 1 – Day 138 – A Wild wildcard push

It took overtime, but Detroit was able to beat one of the best offenses in the league 3-2 in Dallas in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

It took 31:50 of play before Detroit struck the first goal, courtesy of an Second Star of the Game Andreas Athanasiou wrister, assisted by Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, but their lead lasted only 5:42 before Colton Sceviour leveled the scored, assisted by Third Star Vernon Fiddler and Alex Goligoski (his 22nd helper of the season).  The one-all score held into the second intermission.

6:38 after resuming play, Athanasiou scored his second of the night, assisted by Mike Green (his 18th helper of the season) and Luke Glendening.  The score was again leveled, but not until only 1:31 remained in regulation.  Fiddler takes the credit, assisted by Ales Hemsky and Jason Demers, and his goal sent the game to overtime.

Thanks to a Mattias Janmark hooking penalty, Detroit earned a four-on-three power play, which they used to their advantage to win the game on First Star Pavel Datsyuk’s 13th score of the season.

Jimmy Howard earns the win after saving 39 of 41 (95.1%), while Antti Niemi takes the loss, saving 30 of 33 (90.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 61-34-13, favoring the home squads by 30 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Tuesday in the NHL, with a solid nine games on tap.   Two games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Boston and Carolina at New Jersey), followed half an hour later by three more (Pittsburgh at Washington [NBCSN], Edmonton at Buffalo and St. Louis at Ottawa).  Another trio drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Dallas at Nashville, Colorado at Minnesota and Florida at Winnipeg), with this evening’s nightcap, the New York Islanders at Vancouver, beginning at 10 p.m. eastern.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Carolina at New Jersey, Pittsburgh at Washington, Dallas at Nashville and Colorado at Minnesota), and only two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Pittsburgh at Washington and Dallas at Nashville).

Usually, I would choose either the PittsburghWashington or the DallasNashville game, but there’s an even bigger game, a battle for the second wildcard spot, going on this evening in the Xcel Energy Center.

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Tonight’s game will be Colorado‘s sixth in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 4-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in our series was January 27, a 4-3 victory in Los Angeles.  Minnesota has been featured seven times before this evening, and own a 4-3-0 record in such games.  They were last featured January 3 when they lost 2-1 in Florida.

The 32-28-4 Colorado Avalanche currently occupy fifth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough for the second wildcard position.  It has been their top-10 offense that has led them to that position, and it has been necessary – the defense is eighth-worst.

Even with Nathan MacKinnon’s 220 shots, the Avs have fired the puck only 1826 times, but 9.3% have found the back of the net for 172 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 26 tallies), ninth-most in the league.  The most exciting thing about this offense is that they do not rely on the power play, as Colorado connects on only 19.07% of opportunities for 41 goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s 11 extra-man tallies), only the 13th-best in the league.

It has been a good thing Colorado has found such success on the offensive end, because the defense has been… lacking.  Even with Francois Beauchemin’s 195 blocks, Colorado has allowed 2016 shots to reach 22-17-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 181 goals against, eighth-most in the league.  The defensive special teams have clamped down a little bit more, as they kill off 80.2% of penalties for 40 power play goals against, 12th-worst in the league.  To make up for that, the Avalanche have scored seven short-handed goals, two more than the league average.

The Avalanche last played Saturday at Coors Field, where they fell 5-3 at the hands of the Red Wings.  With a regulation win over the Wild this evening, they not only improve their lead over ninth place to four points, they also have the potential to pull within three points of first wildcard Nashville should they lose to the Stars.

The 28-25-10 Minnesota Wild currently occupy sixth place in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference.  While that may be good enough to get them ‘first team out’ status, close counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades, so management has done all they can to get the state of hockey another playoff birth.

So far this season, they’ve been led by their defense.  Jared Spurgeon has 125 blocks to his credit, which has helped lead the Wild to allowing only 1801 shots to reach 22-21-5 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 159 goals against, 12th-fewest in the league.  The overall defense hasn’t gotten much help from the special teams, as the Wild kill only 76.88% of their penalties for 37 power play goals against, the third-worst rate in the NHL.  To slightly lessen the effects of those stats, Minnesota has scored six short-handed goals, led by Erik Haula’s two.

Even with Zach Parise’s 182 shots, the Wild have only managed to fire the puck 1844 times, with 8.9% finding the back of the net for 164 goals (led by Charlie Coyle’s 19 tallies), 13th-fewest in the league.  The power play has been slightly better, capitalizing on 18.59% of opposing penalties for 37 power play goals (led by Mikko Koivu’s seven extra-man tallies), the 14th-best rate in the league.

With a win this evening, the Minnesota Wild will propel themselves into the second wildcard position by virtue of one fewer game played than Colorado.  If they lose, Minnesota‘s lead over 10th place could slip to four points if Vancouver beats the Islanders.

Minnesota has yet to lose in regulation in the season series, and as such, lead it 2-0-1.  That being said, it was the last meeting between these squads that Colorado was able to earn two points, as they won the back half of a home-and-home series on December 7 2-1 in overtime.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Colorado‘s Duchene (26 goals [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Minnesota‘s Koivu (43 points, 22 of which are even-strength assists and seven are power play goals [all lead the team]).

Seeing as Minnesota is the more balanced of these teams and they have the home ice advantage, I think the Wild beat the Avalanche and re-enter the playoff picture for the first time in months.

January 20 – Day 102 – We ain’t talking about no auto shop

Thanks to a two-goal third period to seal the deal, the Boston Bruins have won their third in a row after beating the Canadiens 4-1 in Montréal in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first period occurred at the 13:08 mark, courtesy of Max Talbot, his second of the season.

The Habs leveled the score at one-all 8:48 after resuming play with Third Star of the Game Mark Barberio’s first goal of the season, assisted by P.K. Subban (his 30th helper of the season) and David Desharnais, but the Bruins were able to take the lead again 3:11 before the second intermission with First Star Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner (his 18th goal of the season), assisted by David Pastrnak and Dennis Seidenberg.

Boston scored their first insurance goal of the evening at the 12:14 mark of the final period, scored by Pastrnak (his fourth tally of the season) and assisted by Zac Rinaldo and Joe Morrow.  The final goal was an empty netter from Brad Marchand, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 23rd helper of the season), setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Second Star Tuukka Rask improves his record to 16-13-4 after saving 38 of 39 (97.4%), while Mike Condon’s falls to 12-12-4 after saving only 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-20-9, favoring the home squad by 31 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday schedule makes way for a light Wednesday, as their are only three games taking place today.  The action gets started at 8 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits their old friends in Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS/SN), followed two hours later by Buffalo at Colorado (BELL TV).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern, when Minnesota visits Anaheim (NBCSN/SN).

There are no division rivalries being played tonight, and St. Louis at Detroit represents the only matchup between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While the BluesRed Wings game would be fun for a variety of reasons (Speaking of, I have not featured the Red Wings enough this season… We’ll consider that a note for another day), I’m attracted to another game tonight, as Buffalo visits the Mile High City with a couple of old friends.

Buffalo Sabres LogoColorado Avalanche Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will only be Buffalo‘s second appearance in the Game of the Day series, with their only other showing being a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on October 29.  Colorado has been featured twice before tonight, and own a 1-1-0 record in the series.  Their most recent game with our attention was 6-3 loss in Chicago on January 10.

With the Sabres visiting Colorado this evening, Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly will be making their first appearances in the Pepsi Center since being traded during the 2015 Entry Draft.

McGinn spent a total of 162 games over four seasons with the Avs, with his best season by far being his 2013-’14 campaign in which he scored 38 points (evenly split between assists and goals) and helped Colorado to their first division title in 11 years, although they could not advance beyond the first round after a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on home ice.

O’Reilly had a longer career in Colorado, playing 427 games over six seasons.  Similar to McGinn, O’Reilly’s best season was the division championship campaign, where he scored 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points with a 13.9% season shooting percentage, his best to date, although he has the potential to best that stat with a current 15.6% this season.  That strong shooting percentage is what he’s used to lead his team in scoring, with 17 goals to his credit.

The 19-23-4 Buffalo Sabres currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  Their success has been found on the defensive end, although they are still below-average in that end.

Even with Josh Gorges’ team-leading 98 blocks, Buffalo has allowed 1372 shots to reach 12-12-2 Chad Johnson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 120 goals against, 13th-most in the league.  The first step in improving this defense should be to beef up the penalty kill, as the special teams have only killed 79.28% of opposing power plays for 23 goals against (four below the league average).

The offense has been the main thing holding the Sabres back this season.  Led by Jack Eichel’s 143 shots, Buffalo has fired the puck 1368 times, of which only 7.7% have found the back of the net for 106 goals (led by O’Reilly’s 17 tallies), fourth-fewest in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has not found much success, the Sabres‘ power play has still been strong, scoring on 20.41% of opportunities for 30 goals (led by O’Reilly’s seven tallies).

The Sabres are currently riding two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Arizona on Monday.  A win tonight might do more harm than good at this point in the season, as it will take a miracle for Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs.

The 23-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently occupy fifth place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position.  The Avs play one of the top-five offenses in the league, but have not been able put their opponents away due also having a bottom-ten defense.

Even with Nathan MacKinnon’s 157 shots, Colorado has fired the puck only 1337 times, of which 9.8% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 22 tallies), fifth-most in the NHL.  Colorado‘s power play is slightly better than Buffalo‘s, as they’ve scored on 20.89% of opportunities for 33 goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s seven extra-man tallies).  That stat does come with a qualifier though, as the Avs have given up five shorthanded goals this season, two more than the league average.

As good as the offense has been, it’s a shame Colorado hasn’t done much to improve the blue line.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 143 blocks to his credit, 1454 shots have made their way to 16-12-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 130 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The shining spot for this defense has been their penalty kill, as not only have they killed 80.54% for 29 power play goals against, but they’ve also scored four shorthanded goals, led by Blake Comeau’s two.

The Avalanche won their most recent game 2-1 in Winnipeg on Monday.  A Colorado win has the potential to pull them within a game of Minnesota for the first wild card spot, but a regulation loss allows Vancouver to take their spot in the second wild card position.

Some players to watch include Buffalo‘s O’Reilly (39 points, including 17 goals, 10 of which were at even-strength, with the remaining seven being power play tallies [all lead the team]) and Colorado‘s Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Based on standings alone, you’d like to think the Avs would win this game regardless of location, but that defense does not leave me with a good taste in my mouth.  I think I’ll pick Colorado, but I believe it will be a nail-biter.

January 10 – Day 92 – A streak must end tonight

It may have taken overtime, but the Washington Capitals were able to complete their weekend-sweep of New York City-based teams, as they knocked off the Rangers with a 4-3 victory.

The first two periods had only a goal each, both scored by the Caps.  The first period tally is compliments of none other than First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin, a power play goal with only 15 seconds remaining before intermission.

Washington‘s second goal of the night came a little bit quicker, only 3:56 after resuming play.  Nate Schmidt assisted Justin Williams to his 12th goal of the year to set the score the score at 2-0.

Although the Caps entered the period with the lead, it took a late goal to get the game into overtime.  Oscar Lindberg and the Blueshirts got on the board 5:54 after resuming play after assists from Dominic Moore and Ryan McDonagh, his 13th helper of the season.  Twelve seconds before the midway point of the period, Third Star McDonagh and Derick Brassard (his 16th assist of the year) assisted Kevin Hayes to level the score at two-all.  New York‘s go-ahead goal crossed the goal line at the 13:11 mark, scored by Viktor Stalberg after assists from Keith Yandle (his 20th of the season) and Kevin Hayes.  The Rangers got within six seconds of the victory, but Washington had different plans, as Second Star Nicklas Backstrom scored a game-tying goal after assists from Williams and Matt Niskanen (his 16th helper of the season).

The overtime period lasted only until 1:25 before Nate Schmidt assisted Ovechkin to the 24th goal of his season, and the 499th of his career to earn the Capitals the bonus point.

Braden Holtby improves his record to 27-4-2 after saving 23 of 26 (88.5%), while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 18-11-4 after saving 27 of 31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-19-8, favoring the home squad by 20 points over the roadies.

The second weekend of the new year is completed with six games being played this Sunday.  Only one matinee game is being played, with Buffalo visiting Winnipeg (BELL TV) at 3 p.m. eastern.  Two games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern (Ottawa at Washington [TVAS/SN] and Colorado at Chicago), followed an hour later by a couple more (New Jersey at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Detroit at Anaheim).  The final game of the night gets started at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Florida visits Edmonton (SN1).

Colorado at Chicago represents not only the only divisional matchup of the evening, but also the only game between teams both qualifying for the playoffs.  Especially since I’ve been wanting to write about the Avs for a while, lets take a look at that game.

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Tonight’s game is only Colorado‘s second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, with their first being a three-goal shutout victory in Anaheim on October 16.  On the other hand, Chicago has been featured a series-leading 12 times, and host a 6-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing was a 3-2 overtime victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The 21-18-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position over the Nashville Predators (Colorado wins on regulation+overtime wins).  To get to this position, they’ve utilized one of the best offenses in the league to compensate for a less-exemplary defense.

So far this season, the Avs have put only fired the puck 1189 times (led by Nathan MacKinnon’s 137), of which a whopping 10.3% have found the back of the net for 122 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 19 tallies), third-most in the NHL.  That sharp-shooting success has followed them to the power play, where Colorado has converted 21.77% of their 147 opportunities for 32 goals.  This success is good, but it comes with a catch – the Avalanche has already given up five short-handed goals this season, two more than the league average.

The offense has been necessary to cover up some less-than-ideal play on the defensive end.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 125 blocks to his credit, 1296 shots have still made their way to 15-10-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., who’ve collectively saved an average 91.5% for 117 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The average, if not less-than, defensive play has continued to the penalty kill, where Colorado has killed only 79.26% of opposing attempts (1.61% below the league average) for 28 power play goals against.

Colorado is currently riding a three-game winning streak, with their most recent being a 5-3 victory over the Predators on Friday.

The 26-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, trailing the Dallas Stars by six points with a game in hand.  As indicated by their place in the standings, they are one of the strongest teams in the Conference, playing a balanced, strongly competitive game.  You can read more about their style of play here.

Chicago is currently riding a six-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-1 win over the Sabres on Friday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (six shutouts [leads the league], 22 wins [third-best in the league] and .927 save percentage [ninth-best in the league]) and Patrick Kane (60 points [leads the league], 37 assists [leads the league], +20 [third-best in the league] and 23 goals [fifth-best in the league]) & Colorado‘s Duchene (19 goals [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Tonight’s meeting will be the third in the four-game season series, and the second in the Windy City.  Colorado currently leads the series 1-0-1, thanks to a three-goal shutout victory in the United Center on December 15, followed by a 4-3 overtime Blackhawks winner on New Year’s Eve in Denver.

It will be a tall task for the Avalanche to pull off the upset in the United Center tonight.  Not only are they playing on the road, but the Hawks‘ offense should be able to shred the Avs‘ defense and goaltending.  While I always like to pull underdog, I gotta go with Chicago taking the win.