Tag Archives: Shaw

2018 Offseason Preview: Montréal Canadiens

Day 1 of our offseason preview series reaches a close with the third lottery-winning team, the Montréal Canadiens.

After finishing the season with a 29-40-13 record good enough for fourth-worst in the NHL, there’s little doubting the league’s most-storied franchise is in a bit of a funk right now. The offense was anemic (averaging a third-worst 2.52 goals per game), the defensive zone was equally as bad (allowing a seventh-worst 3.15 goals against per game) and the defense did little to make G Carey Price‘s life any easier (Montréal allowed a 12th-worst 32.3 shots against per game).

What can General Manager Marc Bergevin do to fix this mess?

2018 NHL Entry Draft

I’m of the firm belief that, barring select and rare circumstances, teams of any sport should always draft the best player available. Should Bergevin – as well as Buffalo and Carolina with their own selections – prescribe to that theory, I’d bank on Czech W Filip Zadina continuing to study his French after a season with QMJHL side Halifax.

Having played only one season with the Mooseheads, the 18-year-old was far and away the brightest rookie in his league. In 57 regular season games, Zadina posted wildly impressive 44-38-82 totals for 1.44 points per game, the fifth-best mark of any player in that league that played at least 51 games.

The tough predicament with Zadina is figuring out if he’ll join the Canadiens and begin his rookie season immediately, or if he’ll return to Halifax to develop another year in juniors. He certainly has the talent on his own, but the answer to that question has a better chance of being discovered after taking a look at how Montréal tackles free agency.

Pending free agents

The Habs have five forwards with NHL contracts that expired at the culmination of the regular season, but only RW Ales Hemsky is of the unrestricted variety. LW Daniel Carr, F Phillip Danault, F Jacob de la Rose and F Logan Shaw are all RFAs.

Turning 35-years-old before the 2018-19 season gets underway, there’s a chance Hemsky’s playing days could be behind him. In the last two seasons, he’s appeared in only 22 NHL games and hasn’t registered a point since his goal against the Devils on March 26, 2017. If anything, I’d expect the Oilers to offer him a one-day deal so he could retire with the team that drafted him 13th-overall in 2001.

Without a doubt, Carr and Danault should be seeing some of the Canadiens’ available $12 million slid their way, as the club’s struggles were far from a result of their play.

In the contract year of a $1.825 million, two-year deal, Danault posted decent 8-17-25 totals in 52 appearances (made only better in light of Montréal’s overall poor offense) for .48 points per game. At 25-years-old, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign another two-year deal – this one worth at least $1.5 million per year.

In a similar strain, I’d also be just fine with seeing Carr sign for $1 million, even if it was only a one or two-year contract. Carr only played in 38 games this season, but he posted 6-10-16 totals to average .42 points per game. Carr may never develop into a top-six player, but most teams will gladly take that kind of production from a third-liner.

Back on the blue line, there’s exactly zero pending NHL free agents. That’s not exactly a good thing for Montréal considering its miserable defensive performance this season, so I would expect at least one of the Habs’ D-men to be on the move.

Even though he’ll turn 33-years-old this August, D Shea Weber is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, but his attractiveness on the trade front is severely hampered by the eight remaining years on his $110 million contract (yes, your math is correct: Nashville signed Weber until he is 41-years-old).

Instead, D Jeff Petry might fetch a very nice return from a team lacking defense but wants to win now. He has three years remaining on his $5.5 million AAV contract and would likely fetch a similar, if not higher, price the Habs paid for him three years ago (a second and fourth-round pick).

Similar to the defensemen, Montréal has little to worry about in the goaltending department. This season is the first of Price’s eight-year, $84 million contract extension, and G Antti Niemi still has one year left on his sub-$1 million deal. Especially in light of Niemi posting a .929 save percentage in 19 appearances with the Canadiens last season, I doubt much will be changing here.

The only way this situation might be altered is if a team wants to trade for Niemi, but my guess is that sort of transaction is better suited for the trade deadline given his lackluster performances over the last few seasons.

November 20 – Day 48 – Where’s the offense?

We’re only three days away from the all-important American Thanksgiving holiday! Every team (well, maybe not Arizona and Buffalo) will be working to pack as many points into these days as possible, which should make for some exciting action.

Said action is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. with three games (Columbus at Buffalo [SN1], Arizona at Toronto and Calgary at Washington [TVAS]), followed by a pair (Winnipeg at Nashville and New Jersey at Minnesota) an hour later. Finally, tonight’s nightcap featuring Anaheim at San Jose (SN) will drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.

Separated by only a point in the Pacific Division standings, there’s no way we’re missing a rivalry game pitting NorCal against SoCal. Off to the SAP Center with us!

 

Two teams undoubtedly working to maximize their points this week are the 9-7-3 Ducks and the 10-8-0 Sharks, as both are currently on the outside of the top-eight in the Western Conference.

Even though it’s currently riding a two-game winning streak, Anaheim’s offense has left much to be desired this season, as it ranks 11th-worst in the NHL by averaging only 2.84 goals-per-game. Of course, what should we expect from a team that is playing Derek Grant as its top-line center?

Grant is in the position he’s in due to the Ducks’ roster being absolutely devastated by injuries. RW Jared Boll, W Patrick Eaves, C Ryan Getzlaf, W Ondrej Kase and F Ryan Kesler are all on injured reserve, which has thrust immense pressure on F Rickard Rakell and W Corey Perry to keep Head Coach Randy Carlyle‘s machine running as smooth as possible. All things considered, they’ve both performed very well, as Rakell has scored a team-high seven goals (7-9-16 totals), thanks in large part to Perry’s club-leading 11 assists (3-11-14).

They’ve also received decent backup from second-liner F Andrew Cogliano, who provides .58 points-per-game, but it gets harder and harder to find depth scoring when young players like Grant, LW Nick Ritchie, F Kevin Roy and W Logan Shaw are being thrust onto the senior team.

Even though they’re performing with varying degrees of success, the youngsters have managed only 8-13-21 totals in their 57 man games (.37 points-per-game), playing predominantly in the bottom-six positions formerly occupied by those that have been promoted to the top lines. It’s hard to fault them for Anaheim’s struggles, but it’s equally hard to imagine the Ducks having much success until the end of December when Getzlaf and Kesler should be able to return to the ice.

Making a difficult situation even tougher, Anaheim has to square off against a Sharks team that plays defense extremely well, as San Jose leads the league in both shots against (28.2 per game) and goals against (2.28 per game).

Of course, that leaves the Sharks’ offense to blame for them also sitting on the outside of the current playoff picture. Even with the incredible secret weapon named D Brent Burns at their disposal, Head Coach Peter DeBoer’s club has managed only 2.44 goals-per-game, the fourth-worst effort in the NHL.

Unfortunately for San Jose, they don’t have the excuse of a long list of injuries like Anaheim, as it’s only been confirmed that F Joe Pavelski has not been playing at 100 percent. Instead, everyone not named F Logan Couture – who has managed .83 points-per-game –  has simply struggled to start the season.

Probably the best statistic to showcase the Sharks’ lack of rhythm can be found within the leader board for their clubhouse Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (if this trophy exists, it has to be called the Patrick Marleau Award). With his 10-5-15 totals, Couture is easily leading the race, but W Joonas Donskoi is in second place with only five goals to his name. In fact, only 13 different players have found the back of the net this season for San Jose, only a year removed from 26 different players scoring at least one goal.

One of the most obvious players still looking for his groove is last year’s Norris Trophy winner. After posting career-high 29-47-76 totals last year, Burns has yet to find the back of the net on any of his 75 shots on goal. It has become painfully obvious how important the versatility of Burns is to this team, so the sooner he can find his rhythm, the better the Sharks’ chances of getting into the tournament

Rivalry games have a way of bringing out the best in any team, regardless of how well or how poor it’s been playing lately. That being said, I’m still leaning towards G Martin Jones and the Sharks beating Anaheim since D John Gibson made 50 saves in yesterday’s victory over the Panthers.


After chasing G Jonathan Quick 11:22 into the game, the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 at T-Mobile Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The reason Quick was pulled shortly after the midway point of the first period is because he allowed Vegas to score three unanswered goals on only nine shots faced (.667 save percentage).

The first of those was struck only 55 seconds into the contest courtesy of a wrist shot by First Star of the Game William Karlsson (Reilly Smith). The Golden Knights’ advantage was doubled to two goals at the 9:21 mark by Second Star Cody Eakin (Brendan Leipsic), followed only 2:01 later by Karlsson’s (Smith) second tally of the night, a wrister that proved to be the game-winner.

This goal was all due to a careless mistake by Quick while he was playing behind his own net. Intending to dish the puck to D Derek Forbort in the right corner, the goaltender fanned on the pass and left it unattended in the trapezoid. Before he could decide whether to repossess the puck or get back to his crease, Smith took control of the situation and centered a pass to Karlsson at the right post, who played it with his right skate to slide it behind his left leg to the blade of his stick and into the net – no matter how hard D Drew Doughty tried to keep the puck from crossing the goal line.

After Quick was replaced by backup G Darcy Kuemper, the Knights did not find the back of the net again while he was in the crease. Solidifying the defensive end was a major boost to the Kings’ morale, because Trevor Lewis (Alex Iafallo) finally got them on the board at the 8:35 mark of the second period.

That positive momentum carried into the third period, and Los Angeles finally sneaked a second goal past Third Star G Maxime Lagace with 8:15 remaining in regulation: a wrister by Tanner Pearson to set the score at 3-2.

Since they were unable to beat Lagace a third time with only five skaters, the Kings pulled Kuemper late in the third period for an extra attacker. It was then, with 62 seconds remaining before the final horn, that Alex Tuch (Eakin) scored the last goal of the game on an empty net to set the 4-2 final score.

Lagace earned the victory after saving 27-of-29 shots faced (.931 save percentage), and Kuemper finished the night saving all 30 shots he faced in 47:23 of play for no decision.

The Golden Knights’ home victory is the third-straight and sixth in the past seven days by hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The homers now have an impressive 26-17-5 record that is 10 points better than the visitors.

March 19 – Day 151 – We’ve turned into David Copperfield

There may be fewer games on today’s schedule compared to yesterday’s 10-game slate, but these matchups are no less important. The action starts at 1 p.m. with two games (Columbus at New Jersey and Florida at Pittsburgh [SN/TVAS]), followed by Minnesota at Winnipeg at 5 p.m. Colorado at Chicago (NHLN) drops the puck at the usual 7 p.m. starting time, trailed by two more (Carolina at Philadelphia and Ottawa at Montréal [RDS/SN]) half an hour later. Finally, Los Angeles at Calgary (SN1) acts as tonight’s nightcap, getting underway at 9:30 p.m. All times eastern.

In what is probably a first in the short history of the DtFR Game of the Day series, today’s featured game is nearly an exact replica of yesterday’s, as we follow the Canadiens and Senators from Ottawa to Montréal.

 

Since we just featured this matchup, today’s preview is going to look a little bit different. To start, the best way to set today’s matchup is with a recap of yesterday’s:


For the second night in a row, the road team won the DtFR Game of the Day with on a shootout victory. Last night, it was the Canadiens who beat Ottawa 4-3.

No goals were registered in the first period, but three were scored in both the remaining frames. Andrew Shaw (Phillip Danault and Shea Weber) got the scoring at the 22:37 mark of the game, but Third Star of the Game Derick Brassard (Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman) buried a power play wrist shot 9:59 later to level the game at one-all. With 6:08 remaining in the second period, Ryan Dzingel (Alexandre Burrows and Second Star Erik Karlsson) scored a wrister to give the Senators a 2-1 lead they would take into the second intermission.

With two goals in 31 seconds, the Canadiens flipped a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. 6:15 into the period, Danault (Artturi Lehkonen and Shaw) scored a wrister to tie the game at two-all, followed by a Brendan Gallagher (Andrei Markov) wrister to set the score at 3-2. With 4:57 remaining in regulation, Karlsson (Marc Methot and Brassard) buried his wrister to set tie the game at three-all, which would hold through the rest of timed play.

Off to the shootout!

  1. The best way to score in the shootout is to put a puck on net. Bobby Ryan apparently did not get that memo.
  2. First Star Paul Byron took advantage of Ryan’s mistake, burying his shot into Craig Anderson‘s net. The Habs led the shootout 1-0 after the first round.
  3. Turris tried to level the shootout for Ottawa, but Carey Price was up to the task and did not yield a tally, earning a sink-to-win scenario for Montréal.
  4. Alexander Radulov is not one to shy away from pressure in the shootout, and he proved that once again by scoring the unofficial game-winning goal.

Price earned the victory after saving 28-of-31 shots faced (90.3%), leaving the shootout loss to Anderson, who saved 29-of-32 (90.625%).

Those two straight shootout-winners by the 78-53-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series is part of a larger four-game winning streak, which has expanded their lead to five points over the series’ hosts.


That may have been the first blemish the Senators‘ record has suffered at the hands of Montréal this year, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have a two-point lead on the Habs in the season series.

Of course, the most important two-point lead belongs to Montréal. That lead, of course, pertains to the Atlantic Division.

That’s what has made this weekend’s series so important. Although the Habs have led the division for almost the entire season, the competition between these two clubs has been very tight for the entire year. The Sens are right behind the Habs, and could claim the division lead with a victory tonight due to their game-in-hand.

Goaltending is the strength of both these clubs, as made evident in last night’s meeting. Since 21-8-2 Anderson and 32-17-5 Price both played in yesterday’s prolonged game, it will be intriguing to see if they get the nod again today or if 18-12-6 Mike Condon and/or 8-6-3 Al Montoya make an appearance.

Had yesterday’s meeting not gone into a shootout, I would’ve been very confident in guessing that Montoya would continue to ride the bench this evening. Of course, the extra work could have Guy Boucher and Cluade Julien reconsidering their original plans.

Offensively, there’s no secret who leads the home Canadiens. It’s easily been Max Pacioretty and his 60 points – including 33 goals, another club high. Although he didn’t get on the scorecard last night against Anderson, the Habs‘ captain has a knack for scoring against the Sens. He’s registered 11 goals for 22 points over his career against Ottawa, including a hat trick plus two assists on April 4, 2014.

Ottawa‘s main offensive threat doesn’t even technically play offense. Of course, it’s the one-and-only Karlsson. He’s notched 65 points this season, the second-highest total among blueliners league-wide. Turris has a slight edge over Mark Stone in the Sens‘ goal-scoring race, but that’s due in part to the right wing missing four more games than the proud owner of 23 tallies.

Yesterday’s game may not have been the best example, but Montréal should have a special teams advantage in tonight’s game due to Ottawa‘s struggles on the power play. The Senators convert only 17.8% of their man-advantages, which is the 10th-worst rate in the NHL.

That being said, the Sens have definitely been on the upswing in the last month. Since February 19, Ottawa has converted 21.4% of their power plays, a 3.6% improvement in comparison to their season average.

Regardless of who wins this very important game, it looks to be certain that these clubs will finish first and second in the division. Boston has 82 points to its credit (which trails Ottawa by only four points), but all three teams have been playing solid hockey of late.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Montréal‘s Pacioretty (33 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Price (32 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] on a .922 save percentage [seventh-best in the NHL] and a 2.28 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (.929 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL] for a 2.25 GAA [seventh-best in the league]) or Condon (five shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) and Karlsson (51 assists [third-most in the league]).

While it proved correct to pick the Canadiens last night, a quick, incomplete search implies that oddsmakers are not so against the Senators with Anderson is involved in play. That being said, I’m still leaning towards Montréal in what should be another tight, exciting game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Vladimir Konstantinov (1967-) – This 11th-rounder in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft may have lasted only six seasons with Detroit, but it was a successful six years. That was no more true than his final season in the league when he hoisted the 1997 Stanley Cup.
  • Tyler Bozak (1986-) – This center has played his entire eight-year NHL career with the Maple Leafs, and he’s en route for the best campaign in that time this season. His 31 assists this season is already a career-high, and his 47 points is only two points short of matching his two-time high (last in 2014-’15).

Chicago at St. Louis – Game 7 – Brouwer and the Blues advance

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With a 3-2 win in the Scottrade Center Monday night, the Blues are off to Dallas after eliminating the arch-rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Exactly a minute into the game, Jori Lehtera redirected a Jay Bouwmeester shot into the back of Corey Crawford’s net to give the Blues a one-goal lead.  Bouwmeester’s initial shot from the blue line was assisted by Jaden Schwartz.

The Notes doubled their lead with 6:17 remaining in the opening period with a slap shot from Colton Parayko, assisted by Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen.  Steen dug the puck out of the corner and passed to Berglund at the near face-off dot.  Berglund dumped off to the rookie, who fired from almost on the blue line to give the Blues their second goal.

Marian Hossa pulled the Blackhawks back within a goal with a slap shot with 1:30 remaining in the frame.  His third goal of the series was assisted by Richard Panik.  The offensive threat began in the Hawks‘ defensive zone when Schwartz blows an edge and ends up on his back.  Panik collected the puck in the neutral zone and made the cross-ice pass to Hossa just before he crossed the blue line.  Hossa fired his slapper from just outside the right face-off circle.

Just like they have all series, St. Louis made certain to make their presence along the boards known, as they led the Hawks in hits, 20 to seven.

Thanks to a Kevin Shattenkirk hooking penalty causing the first power play of the game, Andrew Shaw leveled the game with a wrister assisted by Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, the only tally of the period.  Keith started the play at the blue line, passing to Toews who quickly dumped to Shaw along the goal line to Second Star of the Game Brian Elliott’s stick side.  In what was probably an attempted pass to Patrick Kane on the opposite side of the crease, Shaw’s puck hit Bouwmeester’s leg as he was sprawled on the ice and trickled past Elliott’s left skate.

Just as Chicago had the only goal in the second, St. Louis had the lone tally of the third to break the tie and win the series.  The series-clinching goal belongs to First Star Troy Brouwer, his first of this postseason, assisted by Third Star Robby Fabbri and Paul Stastny.  The play starts on Erik Gustafsson’s stick, as he is working to advance the puck into the neutral zone before Fabbri throws a full body check to break possession.  Alex Pietrangelo collected the puck and dumped it back into the offensive zone, where Stastny collected.  Working hard to maintain possession, he finally finds Fabbri in the far face-off circle, who dumps to Brouwer waiting in the crease.  Brouwer’s initial shot finds the right post, and the second was a fan, but the third time was indeed the charm, finding the back of Crawford’s net.

Elliott earns his first Game 7 win in his first Game 7 appearance, saving 31 of 33 shots faced (93.9%), while Crawford takes the loss, saving 23 of 26 (88.5%).

As the lower seed, a maximum of only three games will be played in St. Louis next round when they face the Dallas Stars.  No date or time has been released for when that series will begin in North Texas.

St. Louis at Chicago – Game 4 – Shaw’s penalty overshadows his three point night, Blues win 4-3

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The Blues arrived in Chicago tied with the Blackhawks in their Quarterfinal series.  With two impressive road wins, they come home to St. Louis with the opportunity to punch their ticket to the Semis after winning 4-3 in Game 4.

The only goal of the first period was an absolute rifle from First Star of the Game Vladimir Tarasenko on Corey Crawford’s glove side, assisted by Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz with 5:58 remaining in the frame.

Although the Notes had the lead on the scoreboard, it was actually the Blackhawks who led the period in shots with 14, but St. Louis countered by continuing their physical ways with a solid 17 hits in the opening frame.

By deflecting an initial slap shot from Marian Hossa (who was set up by Erik Gustafsson) into net, Andrew Shaw leveled game for the Hawks at the 9:12 mark.  Third Star Duncan Keith struck again 3:57 later on the power play to give Chicago the lead, assisted by Shaw and Patrick Kane.  With 2:29 remaining in the period, Tarasenko struck again to take advantage of an Andrew Ladd interference penalty with a power play wrister assisted by Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk.  As the last goal of the period, the game entered the second intermission tied at two-all.

After two, Chicago still led the game with 28 shots to St. Louis‘ 15, but the Notes had a 20 hit lead on the home Hawks.

A minute and a second after play resumed, Keith was caught holding Lehtera.  35 seconds later, Schwartz earned the Blues their second lead of the night with a power play wrister assisted by David Backes and Shattenkirk.  Steen waited 3:10 before increasing the Blues‘ lead to two goals.  It was a sweet steal on a pass in Chicago‘s defensive end that he fired over the surprised Crawford’s glove.

Keith pulled Chicago back within a goal with 5:20 to go in regulation with a wrister, assisted by Artemi Panarin and Shaw.

The game effectively ended with 2:04 remaining in regulation when Shaw was called for interference against Jay Bouwmeester.  Before making his way to the box, Shaw was seen choosing two particular fingers to convey a message to the referee, and they certainly weren’t thumbs up.  Following the horn, Shaw initiated a scrum with Pietrangelo in Second Star Brian Elliott’s end, and he continued to fight even after the referee was making every attempt to separate the two.

These actions in addition to some choice words that, if I’m to trust my lip reading abilities, were homosexual slurs directed at the official, Shaw may be receiving at least a fine from the league, if not a suspension.  It is a shame that he allowed the Blues to get to him so much, as he had one of the best games of the night for the Blackhawks before all the debauchery.

Elliott earns the win after saving 39 of the 42 shots he faced (92.9%), while Crawford takes the loss, saving 16 of 20 (80%).

With that win, the Blues return to St. Louis with a 3-1 series lead and the opportunity to punch their ticket to the Western Semifinals on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. eastern.  That contest can be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Chicago at St. Louis – Game 2 – Keith returns to level the series for the Hawks

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Duncan Keith doesn’t play in Game 1, the Blues take advantage to take a series lead.  He plays Game 2, and now the Hawks have home ice advantage, winning 3-2.

A scoreless, highly defensive first period had many thinking Game 2 would be similar to the first.  Only nine combined shots were fired in the opening frame, with Chicago firing only two, even though both sides had a power play opportunity each.

Second Star of the Game (although I would argue he is not deserving of the honor due to his involvement in a future play) Vladimir Tarasenko finally scored the first regulation goal of the series at the 15:20 mark of the second period on a wrister from between the dots, assisted by Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera.  The Blues‘ lead didn’t last long though, as Keith’s slap shot, assisted by Third Star Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews with five seconds remaining in the period, leveled the game.

Similar to the period before, the third was more than half complete before the third goal was scored.  Before that happened though, Tarasenko committed a slashing penalty on Andrew Shaw, earning him a two minute break in the sin bin.  With seven seconds remaining on the power play, and 4:19 remaining in regulation, Shaw himself made Vladi pay, assisted by Brent Seabrook and Kane to give Chicago the lead.  They scored an insurance goal on an empty net with 1:26 remaining when Artemi Panarin tipped-in Keith’s initial attempt, and it proved to be necessary as Kevin Shattenkirk connected on a slap shot off a David Backes face-off win, but with only two seconds remaining in the game.

First Star Corey Crawford earns the leveling win after saving 29 of 31 shots faced (93.5%), while Brian Elliott takes the loss after saving 26 of 28 (92.9%).

The squads will board planes tonight or tomorrow and make their way to Chicago for Game 3, which will take place at 3 p.m. eastern on Sunday.  It may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

January 3 – Day 85 – Which is more Wild? Minnesota or the Everglades?

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers ended in a home shutout winner, as First Star of the Game Roberto Luongo led his squad to a 3-0 victory, their eighth-straight.

The first goal of the night, the game-winner, was a backhander from Second Star Logan Shaw, assisted by Corban Knight with only 25 seconds remaining in the opening period.

The second period was witness to both of Florida‘s insurance goals.  The first of those came 4:41 after resuming play from the intermission, compliments of a Vincent Trocheck tip-in, assisted by Alex Petrovic and Brian Campbell.  At the 11:18 mark, the third and final goal of the night found the back of the net courtesy of a Brandon Pirri power play slapshot, assisted by Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen, setting the score at the 3-0 final.

Luongo improves his record to 17-11-3 by saving all 40 shots he faced, while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 17-11-3 after saving 17 of 20 (85%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 33-16-6, favoring the home squads by 24 points over the roadies.

After a full Saturday schedule, the NHL relaxes a little bit, as there’s only four games this Sunday.  The action gets started at 5 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits the New York Islanders, followed an hour later by Minnesota at Florida.  7 p.m. eastern brings with it Ottawa at Chicago (NHLN/TVAS/SN), and this evening’s nightcap gets started at 9 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Anaheim.

None of today’s games are between divisional rivals (in fact, Winnipeg at Anaheim is the only game between teams from the same conference!), but two are between teams that are both qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at New York and Minnesota at Florida).  Lastly, the WinnipegAnaheim game is a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinal matchups.

I know that we just watched Florida last night, but I am more intrigued by their game against the Wild than the StarsIsles game, so I’m making the executive decision to keep our focus in Sunrise, Fla.

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This evening’s game will be Minnesota‘s seventh appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing while the focus of our attention was their game in St. Louis on New Year’s Eve, a 3-1 victory.  This is Florida‘s fourth showing after winning their game against the Rangers last night.

The 20-10-7 Minnesota Wild‘s most recent game was a 3-2 shutout defeat last night in Tampa Bay.  They’ve utilized one of the best defenses (fourth in goals against) in the league to establish themselves in fourth place in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference.  You can read a more in-depth summary of Minnesota‘s play here.

Just like Minnesota, the 22-12-4 Florida Panthers play a top-five defense (as measured by goals against) to establish themselves as the best in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, and are currently riding a league-best eight-game win streak.  Yesterday’s Game of the Day provides a more in-depth analysis of the Panthers‘ game, and can be found here.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (17 wins [tied for fifth in the league] and .926 save percentage [tenth-best in the league]) and Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for third in the league] and 16 wins [tied for eighth in the league]).

It is my opinion that both Florida‘s offense and defense are better than that of the Wild.  Coupling that with home-ice for the Panthers, and this should be a Florida winner.

December 10 – Day 64 – Return from hiatus

Hello again friends!

As you may have noticed, I was forced into a month long writing hiatus due to a major project for school, for which I am extremely sorry.  For those that care, you will be pleased to know that (1) I completed my senior project and (2) I think it went marvelously!  Due to that, I may be a little rusty in delivering my Game of the Day, and I hope you forgive me as I work out the rust.

That being said, there’s been a lot of hockey happening between then and now, and I’m not in the ‘Hockey in the Last Month’ business.  Let’s take a look at what today’s Game of the Day is!

Tonight’s schedule includes a total of seven games, with three (Montréal at Detroit [RDS], Ottawa at Tampa Bay [RDS2] and Washington at Florida) beginning at 7:30 p.m. eastern.  Three games get started half an hour later (Philadelphia at St. Louis, Chicago at Nashville and Columbus at Winnipeg), followed an hour later by Buffalo at Calgary (SN360), tonight’s nightcap.

Three of tonight’s matchups are divisional (Montréal at Detroit, Ottawa at Tampa Bay and Chicago at Nashville), while two are between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Montréal at Detroit and Chicago at Nashville).  Since one of last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was between Chicago and Nashville, we’ll focus in on Bridgestone Arena.

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Currently, Chicago lays claim to the final divisional spot in the Central Division’s playoff bracket and fourth place in the Western Conference with a 15-9-4 record (34 points).  They are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their last game being a 4-1 victory against these same Predators in the United Center only two days ago.

So far this season, Chicago has employed strong play on both sides of the ice.  By pairing four more goals scored than the league average with four goals against than the league average, the Hawks have moved their way past the Preds and Wild into the third divisional spot.

An especially strong point of the offense has been the all-important power play.  Chicago has scored 20 power play goals (led by Patrick Kane) so far this season (three more than the league average), as well as earned two more opportunities than the league average.  Both of these numbers combine to yield the Hawks a 21.98% power play rate, which exceeds the league average by almost 2.75%.

Even when down a man, Chicago has been better than the rest of the NHL.  So far this season, they’ve tallied three shorties (two of which belong to Artem Anisimov), which leads the league average by a goal.

While all of these goals are great, the real reason the Blackhawks have been successful has been their forwards putting pucks on goal.  They’ve registered a total of 851 shots so far this season (98 of which belong to Kane), which leads the league average by 35 shots.  Because of this, their 9.2% shot percentage slightly exceeds the league average.

On the other end of the ice,  Corey Crawford (13-7-2) and co. have kept a few more goals out  of net than their average league counterpart – four, to be exact.  Aided by Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 53 blocks, they’ve only allowed 70 goals so far this season by saving 91.6%of the 826 shots they’ve faced.

On the other end of the ice is a 14-9-5 Nashville team that currently occupies the lesser of the two wildcard positions.  Nashville‘s game has focused more so on the defensive end of the ice, but they’ve been struggling of late to keep the puck out of the back of their own net, made evident by the 13 goals they’ve given up in their last four games played.

As it currently stands, Pekka Rinne (11-7-5) and co. have given up 74 goals, exactly the league average.  One of the main reasons this number has been so high, especially on a goalie as strong as Rinne, has been the lack of success on the penalty kill.  22 of Nashville‘s goals against have come when a man down, even though they’ve given up three less opportunities than the average NHL team.  Due to this, their kill rate is below the 80.74% league average, which is only hurting this team’s chances of being a strong force in the Central Division and the Western Conference as a whole.

Offensively, there’s been a lot of bad puck luck happening to the Predators this year.  They’ve put 881 shots on net so far this season (led by James Neal’s 89), well over the league average, but they only have 71 goals to show for their efforts (led by Neal’s 10 tallies).  One of the main things keeping Nashville together this season has been their success on the power play.  So far this season, the Predators have notched 20 power play goals (led by Shea Weber’s eight tallies) on only 86 attempts, giving them a strong success rate of 20.83%.

Tonight’s game between these two squads is the second in a five-game season series.  Game 1 just occurred only a couple days ago.  That game witnessed the Hawks taking a 4-1 victory at the United Center, with Andrew Shaw notching the game-winner on a power play during the 15th minute of the second period, assisted by Teuvo Teravainen and David Rundblad.  A total of seven Blackhawks were mentioned on the score sheet that night, and they will intend to do the same in Nashville this evening.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Chicago‘s Crawford (13 wins [tied for fourth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for sixth in the league]), Kane (43 points [leads the league], 26 assists [leads the league], 17 goals [second in the league] and +13 [tied for sixth in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (19 assists [tied for seventh in the league] and 28 points [tied for eighth in the league]) and Nashville‘s Roman Josi (79 blocks, 21 points, 14 assists and one shorty [all stats lead team]), Neal (89 shots and 10 goals [both lead team]) and Weber (64 hits and eight power play goals [both lead team]).

Even though Nashville has been a much better home team than road team this season, I still expect Chicago to win this matchup, mostly (1) because of the way Nashville has been skidding recently (3-5-2 in their last 10 games played) and (2) my belief that Chicago is simply the better team so far this season.