Tag Archives: Simmonds

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Weeks 16 & 17

Another two-week special, courtesy of a trip to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Skater of the Week(s): Evgeni Malkin

Hey, so, you know that thing the Penguins do where they trick everyone into thinking they’re not very good and then right around February they just start crapping in everyone’s Wheaties? Yeah, keep those cereal boxes sealed.

The Pens are 4-1-0 in five games over this two-week span, and Geno is a major reason why. With eight goals and 11 points over the five contests, Malkin leads the league by two points in overall scoring in that span, and teammate Phil Kessel is the one trailing him. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that in the first game of the five, he was held scoreless, so he’s actually put up those numbers across just four contests. Throw in three power play tallies, a game-winner, and a cartoonish .40 shooting percentage, and it’s not hard to see why Malkin gets the nod here.

Tendy of the Week(s): Carter Hutton

I’m honestly very glad I checked the stats page on this, because I was jotting down Tuukka Rask‘s name when I saw he had actually been bested.

Hutton continues an absolutely ridiculous run this season with a perfect 4-0-0 record and seemingly-impossible advanced stats with a .984 save percentage and 0.50 GAA over the past two weeks. He’s given up two goals on 123 shots, and I literally cannot even come up with anything witty for that.

The 32-year old career journeyman now boasts a 14-4-1 record on the season with a .947 save percentage and 1.61 GAA. When the Blues traded Brian Elliott, it was because they felt they now possessed a true #1 goaltender for the future. But I’m pretty sure Hutton was not the name they were thinking of at the time.

Game of the Week: Super Bowl LII

The empire has fallen. Behold a god that bleeds.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Rick Nash has submitted his list of teams that he would not accept a trade to upon the Rangers’ request. The former Rocket Richard winner is now in his mid-30s and has seen his production dip signficantly, though some think a change of scenery could reinvigorate his career. The popular narrative is that he returns to Columbus, but I think I speak for most intelligent CBJ fans when I say ‘Dear god please no’.

Jaromir Jagr retired from the NHL and returned to his native Czech Republic to continue his career back home. There were many touching sendoffs from around the NHL, but I’m honestly not sure why considering he’ll just come back in about three years and be a productive player for a few more teams.

Filip Forsberg was suspended for three games following a very illegal hit, a decision that has apparently shocked and upset his teammates. Now I will definitely say the Department of Player Safety has been less than stellar with some decisions this year, and I am certainly of the opinion that good clean hits cause far too much hooplah anymore, but I don’t know how anyone can defend a hit as late and dirty as this one.

Rookie sensation Charlie McAvoy made his triumphant return to the Bruins lineup just 12 days after undergoing a procedure on his heart to treat an abnormal rhythm. I’m not a doctor, but that sounds like a pretty heroic comeback effort to me after literally having the thing that keeps you alive fixed.

Radko Gudas is back at the center of controversy, because of course he is. The oft-suspended Flyers defenseman made airborne contact with Kyle Palmieri after attempting to avoid leg-on-leg contact with teammate Wayne Simmonds by leaping out of the way, only to be met by a backchecking Palmieri. I am actually of the belief that this was truly an accident, but Gudas’ history probably doesn’t help his case.

No one knows what goaltender interference actually is anymore, so everybody get your licks in on that guy who always stones you on breakaways while you can.

January 12 – Day 97 – Gagner is “to win” in French, so…

There’s one more day until the first wave of byes end! Get ready for an explosion of games tomorrow!

However, that still means today’s list of matchups is rather short. Only five pucks are going to be dropped this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (Vancouver at Columbus and Calgary at Florida) and Washington at Carolina half an hour later. Next up is Winnipeg at Chicago at 8:30 p.m., followed by Edmonton at Arizona acting as tonight’s nightcap. All times Eastern.

Teams on the bye: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Montréal, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Vegas.

You’ll notice none of these games are being broadcast nationally in either Canada or the USA, which is a real bummer. Hopefully you live in one of these 10 markets.

As for which tilt we’ll feature here, my list of two candidates was trimmed to one by the still ongoing saga between RW Jaromir Jagr and the Calgary Flames, who was scheduled to make his return to Sunrise today. Since we featured the Canes and Caps yesterday (you can just use that preview for today’s contest), let’s take in F Sam Gagner‘s return to Ohio.


Life is not always easy for a first-round pick.

Just ask Gagner, who was the sixth-overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft – you know, the same draft with LW Jamie Benn, F Patrick Kane, LW Max Pacioretty, D Kevin Shattenkirk, W Wayne Simmonds, D P.K. Subban, RW Jakub Voracek… the list goes on to include a total of 93 skaters and four goaltenders that have seen time in the NHL.

It was a good draft class with some exceptional talent, but not a great one – look to 2003 for a better example of a draft with more depth.

By simply arranging the draft class by points they’ve scored so far in their careers, Edmonton picking him sixth is right on the money. He’s posted 149-272-421 totals over the course of his 11 seasons in the league, which puts him behind Kane (797 points), Benn (556), Voracek (539), Pacioretty (434) and Simmonds (424).

However, how is it Gagner, who provides .57 points-per-game, is one of the three players listed above that is no longer with the club that drafted him?

The obvious answer is just to say “Oilers” and move on, but Gagner’s story did not immediately end up in Columbus.

Gagner signed a three-year extension with the Oil before the 2013-’14 season, but he played only one year of that deal before being shipped to Tampa Bay for RW Teddy Purcell. The Bolts apparently never wanted him, because he was shipped off only an hour later to Arizona for a sixth-round pick.

Year two of that three-year deal was spent with the Coyotes as a right wing – not his usual center position. The results of that experiment in 2014-’15 were fairly poor given his 15-26-41 totals playing off the puck, but General Manager Don Maloney insisted Gagner could not play his natural position in the NHL and decided to trade him to Philadelphia that offseason for D Nicklas Grossmann and D Chris Pronger – who, by the way, hadn’t seen the ice since the 2011-’12 season even though his contract expired this most recent offseason.

For those counting at home, Arizona received 58 games played in the 2015-’16 season out of that trade.

Oh yeah, and Maloney was fired after that year. There’s also that.

And so, Gagner completed a hat trick of teams in as many seasons all on the same contract. It was a miserable campaign in Philly that saw him register only 16 points in 53 games (he spent time in the AHL that season as well), and he was allowed to test free agency.

No one wanted Gagner. Nobody. Free agents can begin signing contracts on July 1, but he didn’t earn a spot on a team until August 1. The former first-rounder signed a one-year, $650 thousand contract with Columbus, making $225 thousand fewer than he did during his first three seasons in the league.

The Jackets had nothing to lose in this situation and everything to gain. They had missed the 2016 playoffs entirely, falling all the way to last in the Metropolitan Division and 15th in the Eastern Conference a year after missing the postseason by only nine points. If Gagner failed to produce, the Jackets could easily waive him and he’d almost assuredly end up in Cleveland with their AHL affiliate.

To put things plainly, Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen looked like a genius after this deal. The Blue Jackets enjoyed their greatest season of all-time by reaching the 100-point plateau for the first time in franchise history, and Gagner was one of the biggest players. He posted fifth-best 18-32-50 totals, setting a career-high in points and tying his career-best in goals.

However, the money just wasn’t there for the Jackets to keep Gagner around for this season. For the second offseason in a row, he was a free agent. But this time, Gagner was one of the first players signed. He was brought into the Vancouver fold on a three-year, $3.15 million deal, and is currently centering the Canucks’ top line.

Unfortunately, Gagner hasn’t been able to bring along the Jackets’ spark to the 16-21-6 Canucks, who currently occupy second-to-last in both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. Short of his stint with the Flyers, he’s having the worst season of his career, posting only 7-12-19 totals through 43 games played (.44 points per game).

Of course, it’s hard to say that Gagner is having a bad year on his own accord. His 19 points are enough to place him sixth on the team, and rookie sensation RW Brock Boeser is the only player on the squad with more than 30 points to his credit.

Vancouver is experiencing an especially rough patch in its season right now, as it is in the midst of a seven-game road trip (tonight is Game 4) while also suffering a five-game losing skid that has seen it earn only one point.

As you might expect from a team where 19 points is good enough for sixth-most on the squad, offense is a major issue for the Canucks. During this five-game losing skid, they’ve managed only eight goals, meaning they’re averaging a third-worst 1.6 goals per game since December 30.

What makes things even more frustrating is that the little offense the Canucks are getting is coming from only two players: the legends themselves, LW Daniel Sedin and C Henrik Sedin. D. Sedin has been extremely impressive over his last three games, as he’s managed 2-2-4 totals for a three-game point streak, and H. Sedin has thrown in three assists in that span as well.

Meanwhile, this hasn’t been the best of runs for 25-17-3 Columbus either. The Jackets have earned only a 3-4-1 record over their past eight games, and they now trail Washington, which has a game in hand, by four points for the Metropolitan Division lead.

It’s not very often that I’m disappointed with Columbus’ overall defensive effort, but for the second time in a row of me featuring the Jackets, that’s where I’m having concerns.

Over their past eight games, the Blue Jackets have allowed 24 goals. Those astute at math notice that is an average of three goals per game (well over the 2.69 Columbus has averaged all season), which ties Chicago for 12th-worst since December 27.

One of, if not the biggest issue over this run has been the penalty kill. Over its past eight games, Columbus has successfully defended only two-thirds of its 18 shorthanded situations, making the Jackets the fifth-worst kill over the past 16 days.

G Sergei Bobrovsky has posted only an .844 save percentage against the power play since December 27 (the 22nd-worst among the 61 netminders to face a power play situation in that time), but he’s also had to face a fifth-most 32 power play shots.

With D David Savard being the only Blue Jacket with more than three shorthanded blocked shots and a total of only four total takeaways in that situation, Columbus needs to find a way to get its penalty kill under control in a hurry.

Bobrovsky played yesterday to a 3-1 loss in Buffalo, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see 4-4-0 G Joonas Korpisalo draw tonight’s start. That being said, I’ve made that prediction once already this week and it didn’t pan out, so we’ll see what Head Coach John Tortorella decides to do.

With the Canucks sporting a 20.7 power play conversion rate that is 12th-best on the season, this may not be the easiest of home games for Columbus. Throw in the fact that Korpisalo, who hasn’t faced an NHL shot since December 31, could be in net tonight, and Vancouver has a very real shot at earning two points this evening.

With a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the Carolina Hurricanes have moved into the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.

This was a game full of solid defense and counterattacking by the Canes. Even though they out-shot the Capitals 33-28 for the night, it felt like Washington was earning much stronger possessions and longer time in the offensive zone.

That was no more apparent than in Carolina’s first goal of the night. With F Josh Jooris in the penalty box for holding D Madison Bowey, the Caps were on the power play. However, when D John Carlson attempted to reset the play to W Alex Ovechkin at the blue line, C Jordan Staal intercepted the pass to set himself up for a one-on-one duel with G Braden Holtby. Staal won that battle, squeezing a backhanded shot between the netminder’s legs for his second shorthanded tally of the season, the most he’s scored in one campaign as a Hurricane.

Carolina took the lead with 8:27 remaining in the second period, but that advantage wouldn’t last for long. Third Star of the Game C Lars Eller (F T.J. Oshie and D Christian Djoos) was able to level the game 4:32 later with a slap shot from above the face-off circles. The one-all score held into the second intermission.

What other line to score the game-winning goal than RW Justin Williams‘? The former Capital didn’t earn a point on the play, but his protégé Second Star C Victor Rask did with his unassisted wrist shot with 9:06 remaining in regulation.

Because the Caps were facing a delayed penalty, it was a six-on-five situation for the Canes. D Justin Faulk fired an initial wrist shot from above the face-off circles that Holtby was able to deflect, but neither he nor any other skater clad in red could take possession of the loose puck. That’s what allowed Rask to one-time a wrister from the left face-off circle, beating Holtby short side.

Washington tried valiantly to find another leveling goal up its sleeve, but Head Coach Barry Trotz was eventually forced to pull Holtby as regulation was beginning to come to an end. That’s what allowed W Sebastian Aho (F Elias Lindholm) to bury a wrister with 89 seconds remaining in regulation to set the score at the 3-1 final.

While the Canes executed their game plan to a T, the player most deserving of praise was First Star G Scott Darling. Having lost his last two starts, he won this one by stopping 27-of-28 shots faced (.964 save percentage). Holtby took the loss, saving 30-of-32 (.938).

That’s the second-consecutive win by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The 54-31-12 home teams still hold the advantage in the series, but the visitors have now pulled within 22 points.

March 9 – Day 141 – Talk about a playoff push

What happens when you mix one of the best days of the week with one of the greatest sports and leagues in the world? I don’t know the answer, but it probably looks something like hockey on a Thursday night.

The New York Rangers at Carolina gets things started at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by two more games (Philadelphia at Toronto [NHLN/TVAS] and Minnesota at Tampa Bay). Anaheim at Chicago drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., trailed by a trio of contests (New Jersey at Colorado, Montréal at Calgary [RDS] and Ottawa at Arizona [RDS2]) 30 minutes later. The final wave of games drop the puck at 10 p.m. with the New York Islanders at Vancouver, followed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Nashville at Los Angeles (SN360) and Washington at San JoseAll times eastern.

While tonight’s action features three matchups between teams currently qualifying for a playoff position, the contest my attention is drawn to most is between two teams currently on the outside looking in.


Only eight of the 16 Eastern Conference clubs earn the opportunity to compete beyond the regular season for the Stanley Cup. While that means half the teams move on, the other half are sentenced to their couches to watch the postseason move on without them.

Currently, both of tonight’s squads find themselves in that second set of teams – on the outside of the playoff picture peering in. Even more frustrating for them, they aren’t missing the mark by much. Both have their sights set on the Islanders‘ 73-point mark, which eludes either team by less than four points.

29-22-14 Toronto certainly has the best shot of surpassing New York for that playoff spot, as they are only a point out of eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. While they probably won’t admit it externally, the Maple Leafs are well ahead of schedule in terms of returning to the top of the hockey landscape, and they have their imposing offense to thank for that.

Yet it’s been its defense that has prevented Toronto from maintaining a playoff position. The Leafs have allowed 187 goals against in 65 games – the eighth-worst rate in the NHL. 25-14-13 Frederik Andersen has been in net for most of those goals, even though his season .916 save percentage is tied for 13th-best in the league among the 37 netminders with at least 27 appearances.

That’s because his 2.72 GAA is only 28th in the league in that same group. That’s where the defense comes into play – or apparently not, as the Leafs‘ blueliners allow 32.6 shots to reach Andersen’s crease per night – the third-highest rate in the league.

As is the case with the entire Toronto roster, it’s a young defensive corps that should hopefully improve with time, but in the meantime Nikita Zaitsev, himself a rookie at 25-years-old, will be expected to continue his impressive play. He leads the group with 116 shot blocks, the most on the team.

Even though defense may not be the club’s strong-suit, don’t just assume that the Maple Leafs are always pushovers. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as Toronto is home to the ninth-best penalty kill in the league, successful on 83.5% of disadvantages. Roman Polak has been front-and-center when the Leafs have a man in the sin bin, as his 30 shorthanded shot blocks are most on the team – as are his 24 shorthanded hits.

The penalty kill is bordering on great and trying to catch up to an exemplary power play. Led by rookie William Nylander‘s 20 power play points, Toronto has scored on 22.9% of their man-advantages – the third-best rate in the NHL. Nylander has been good, but it’s Nazem Kadri that opposing goalies have to keep an eye on – he has a team-leading 11 power play goals, which ties for sixth-most in the league.

Although they have two more wins than the Leafs, the 31-26-8 Flyers are actually in worse shape than tonight’s opposition in terms of catching up to the Isles (those extra-time losses sure add up), as New York has a three-point lead on 10th-place Philadelphia.

Philly‘s reason for falling out of postseason contention is the exact opposite of Toronto‘s. Instead, the Flyers struggle to consistently get on the scoreboard, as they’ve managed only 164 goals this season – the ninth-lowest total in the league.

At the start of the season, there were few offenses more potent than that of high-flying Philadelphia. While they certainly had their slump, it seems Jakub Voracek and his team-leading 53 points is trying to get things back to what they were. Over their past five games, the Flyers have averaged three goals-per-game, which rivals Chicago‘s seventh-best rate on the season.

While it may be a much smaller sample size, any time a team can be mentioned in the same breath as the Blackhawks, they’re usually doing something right.

Two of those goals belonged to Wayne Simmonds, who will be extremely important in the Flyers‘ playoff push. He’s managed 27 markers already this year, eight more than second-place Brayden Schenn. Should Simmonds continue on his current pace, he should manage 34 games by the time the season ends – the highest total of his nine-year career.

In the previous two games between these clubs, it’s been all about the home-ice advantage as both teams have won a game in their colored sweaters and, arguably more importantly, lost in regulation in their road whites. They last met in Philly on January 26, where the Flyers won 2-1, but the Leafs handily won 6-3 when they last hosted Philadelphia on November 11.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Philadelphia‘s Voracek (36 assists for 53 points [both lead the team]) and Toronto‘s Auston Matthews (31 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

With the recent meetings in mind, it’s hard to pick against Toronto tonight, especially when Vegas has already marked the Leafs a -138 favorite. The Leafs have full control of the special teams play in almost every game they play, and I have full faith in their offense to dominate Philadelphia‘s blueline.

Hockey Birthday

  • Harry Neale (1937-) – After seven years of WHA coaching experience, Neale transitioned to the NHL in 1978, a year before the merger. Predominantly spending his time with the Canucks, he led Vancouver to a 142-189-76 record and three-straight playoff appearances.
  • Paul MacLean (1958-) – St. Louis may have selected this French right wing in the seventh round of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Jets. He earned his lone All-Star appearance in 1985 during a 101 point season, by far the best effort of his career. After more than three seasons as the Senators‘ head coach, he’s in his second year as an assistant coach in Anaheim. Also, he and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid are probably really good friends, if not twins.
  • Phil Housley (1964-) – This Hall of Fame defenseman was selected by Buffalo with the sixth-overall pick in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. He certainly did not disappoint, as he ended up being a seven-time All-Star with 1232 points over his 21 seasons.
  • Radek Dvorak (1977-) – The 10th-overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this right wing spent most of his 18-year career, albeit over two stints, with the club that selected him. His best season was by far his 2000-’01 campaign with the Rangers when he accounted for 67 points, including 31 goals (both career highs).
  • Brent Burns (1985-) – There were a few good players selected before the 20th-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, but I’d venture to say that at least 15 scouts whiffed on Burns. Somehow only a two-time All-Star, the six-year Shark has accounted for 490 points over his 13-year career, and he doesn’t look like he’s stopping anytime soon.
  • Colin Greening (1986-) – Ottawa selected this forward in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s spent most of his career. He has yet to make his NHL debut this season, but he was last seen during the 2015-’16 campaign for Toronto.
  • Morgan Rielly (1994-) – Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they selected this defenseman fifth-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He’s accounted for 114 points and a -70 over his four year career. Also, I’m five weeks older than him. Pick the more successful of us, I dare you.

There’s no other word than disrespectful to describe how Boston took advantage of the Red Wings in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. With four unanswered goals in the first period, the Bruins won 6-1.

The scoring onslaught began with 8:53 remaining in the first period. First Star of the Game David Krejci (Drew Stafford and Third Star Zdeno Chara) took credit for the opening tally with a wrist shot, followed 61 seconds later by a Second Star Brad Marchand (David Pastrnak and Chara) wrister – the eventual game-winner. Stafford buried his fifth tally of the season with 6:28 remaining in the frame, and Krejci notched his second of the contest 15 seconds before the period came to a close.

Marchand (Colin Miller) set the score at 5-0 with 3:05 remaining in the second period before Tuukka Rask finally ceded a goal. Niklas Kronwall (Mike Green and Dylan Larkin) is the lucky Red Wing, as his club could not find the back of the net again the rest of the night.

Pastrnak (Krejci) notched the finally tally of the game 34 seconds into the third period to set the 6-1 final score.

Rask earned the victory after saving 26-of-27 shots faced (96.3%), leaving the loss to Jared Coreau. He saved five-of-eight (62.5%) before getting pulled after Stafford’s tally. He was replaced by Petr Mrazek, who saved 18-of-21 (85.7%) for no decision.

Boston‘s win is the third in four days for the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That victory pulls them within four points of the 72-49-22 visitors.

February 22 – Day 126 – Guess who’s found their stride

Like most Wednesdays, the NHL is not exactly an active place this evening, as only three games will be contested. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Edmonton at Florida (SN), followed half an hour later by Washington at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS). Finally, Boston visits Anaheim (SN/SN1) at 10:30 p.m. to act as this evening’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve featured either the Capitals or the Flyers? There’s no way we’re missing this rivalry!

Washington Capitals LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo


For those looking for holes in the 39-12-7 Capitals‘ game, I wish you the best of luck. There’s a reason they lead the Presidents’ Trophy race, as they play extremely well on both ends of the ice. That being said, the main reason Washington has the best scoring differential in the NHL is because of their exemplary defensive play, which has allowed only 121 goals this season – the fewest in the NHL.

Of course, orchestrating that effort is 29-8-5 Braden Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Although it certainly helps to have an offense like the Caps do, Holtby has earned every win to his credit this season, as his .926 save percentage and 2.01 GAA are (t)fourth and (t)best in the NHL, respectively, among the 43 goalies with at least 22 appearances.

He also has the benefit of one of the best defenses in the league, too. Led by Karl Alzner‘s 112 shot blocks, Washington‘s blue line allows only 27.9 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s crease, the sixth-best rate in the game.

The theme of sixth-best continues on the penalty kill, where the Caps neutralize 84.3% of opposing power plays. Just as he does at even-strength, Alzner is an unstoppable force when his club is down a man, as he leads the squad with 31 shorthanded blocks.

Oh yeah, and the power play is the better of the two special teams units. Scoring a goal on 21.8% of opportunities, the Caps are eighth-best in the league with the extra man. That effort is headlined by Nicklas Backstrom and his 23 power play points, even if it is Alex Ovechkin scoring all the goals (he has a dozen tallies with the man-advantage).

That’s a lot for the 28-24-7 Flyers to handle. After a good start to the season, Philadelphia now finds itself in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Florida for the second wildcard.

A dried up offense is the main reason Philly has seen its stock drop so dramatically in the past month. At one point one of the best in the league, the Flyers have accounted for only a total of 154 goals this year – the 10th fewest in hockey. Jakub Voracek is trying his hardest with his team-leading 49 points – as is Wayne Simmonds with his team-leading 25 goals (both have registered a point in four of the last five games) – but the rest of the squad is in a major funk that will be difficult to break against tonight’s opposition.

Don’t let the overall drop in production fool you, though. The Flyers are still one of the best in the league – tied for eighth-best, in fact – on the power play, as they convert an impressive 21.3% of opportunities. Philadelphia employs a two-headed attack, as both Captain Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn tie with 23 power play points for the team lead, but Schenn has been most impressive: 14 of his points are goals, the highest mark on the squad.

Tonight’s contest is the third in the four-game season series between these clubs, and both have won their respective first matchup on home ice. That being said, Washington still has a 1-0-1 advantage over the Flyers thanks to forcing a shootout before falling 3-2 on December 21. The last time they met was January 15, when the Capitals knocked Philly around for a five-goal shutout victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Philadelphia‘s Radko Gudas (192 hits [leads the team]), Ivan Provorov (124 blocks [leads the team]), Simmonds (25 goals [leads the team]) and Voracek (34 assists for 49 points [both lead the team]) & Washington‘s Backstrom (44 assists [second-most in the league] for 61 points [fifth-most in the NHL]), Holtby (seven shutouts [tied for most in the league] and 2.01 GAA [tied for best in the NHL] on a .926 save percentage [tied for fourth-best in the league] for 29 wins [fourth-most in the NHL]), Dmitry Orlov (+27 [ninth-best in the league]), Brooks Orpik (+32 [tied for second-best in the NHL]) T.J. Oshie (+24 [10th-best in the league]) and Ovechkin (27 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]).

Only one team has a positive (read: bad) line next to their name tonight, and it’s the Flyers with their +138. Unfortunately for them, I don’t know if it would matter if they were hitting on all cylinders coming into this game, the Capitals are, as usual, just plain better than most every other team in the league. I figure Washington should win by at least two goals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Sid Abel (1918-2000) – Spending most of his playing days in Detroit, this forward played in the NHL for 14 seasons. It was a successful career, as three All-Star selections, the 1949 Hart Trophy and three Stanley Cups landed him in the Hall of Fame.
  • Tim Young (1955-) – Selected 16th-overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, this center played 10 seasons in the league, most of which with the North Stars. His lone All-Star appearance was in 1977.
  • Pat LaFontaine (1965-) – A long time Islander, this Hall of Fame center was the third-overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Although he never hoisted the Stanley Cup, he did play in five All-Star games and won the 1995 Masterton Trophy.

It’s hard to lose with a three-goal period, and the Blackhawks proved that with a 5-3 victory in Minnesota in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Surprisingly for a contest that featured eight markers, the first goal of the game wasn’t struck until 20:58 had ticked off the clock. First Star of the Game Jonathan Toews (Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk) takes credit with his wrist shot, but Second Star Mikael Granlund (Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu) leveled the game 3:22 later with a power play wrister. Thanks to a wrister from Richard Panik (Toews) 41 seconds after Granlund’s tally, Chicago took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

You know how the goal song at the Xcel Energy Center is Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy?” That’s exactly what happened during the third frame, as five goals were struck. Third Star Nick Schmaltz (Toews) buried the first tally of the period only 33 seconds after it began, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead. Zach Parise (Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville) pulled the Wild back within a tally at the 6:41 mark, but Toews (Schmaltz and Panik) buried the eventual game-winning backhander only 102 seconds later. Granlund (Niederreiter and Koivu) scored his second power play goal of the night with 6:51 remaining in regulation to once again pull Minnesota within a tally, but Toews’ (Schmaltz) hat-trick-completing wrister on an empty net sealed the Hawks‘ victory.

Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 29-of-32 shots faced (90.625%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 34-of-38 (89.5%).

The winning ways for the 64-43-21 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series won’t stop, as their four-game winning streak has propelled them to a three-point lead over hosts.

February 6 – Day 110 – Broad Street Bullies have you feeling Blue?

We’re down to two Big 4 sports in North America now. Time to hone in even more on the NHL.

That’s easy to do tonight, as there’s only three games being played tonight. Even better, they all drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern time. Those matchups are: Buffalo at New Jersey, Toronto at the New York Islanders (SN) and St. Louis at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS).

It’s not often that a inter-conference matchup can have such an effect on the standings, but there’s a lot on the line tonight on Broad Street for both teams involved.

UnknownPhiladelphia Flyers Logo




The Blues make their lone trip of the season to the Wells Fargo Center with a 25-22-5 record, good enough only for fourth-place in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference. The reason they find themselves on the outside looking in is due to their horrendous goaltending, which has allowed 161 tallies so far this year, the fourth-most in the league.

More often than not, 18-14-3 Jake Allen has been charged with manning St. Louis‘ crease this season, but it hasn’t always gone the way he’s hoped. He has only a .897 save percentage and 2.82 GAA to his credit, the (t)42nd and (t)31st-best efforts, respectively, among the 46 goalies with at least 19 or more appearances.

For those wondering, 7-7-2 backup Carter Hutton has effectively been a carbon copy with his .896 save percentage and 2.81 GAA.

It takes work to be as good as the Notes are on defense to give up that many goals. Just as St. Louis has allowed the fourth-most scores, the blueline allows the (t) fourth-least shots-against per night at 27.7. That effort has been headlined by Captain Alex Pietrangelo, who’s 103 shot blocks not only leads the club, but is also the 18th-most in the NHL.

That outsanding defense stands especially tall on the penalty kill, where their 83.5% kill rate is ninth-best in the league. Once again, Pietrangelo deserves much of the credit with his 26 shorthanded blocks, which are eight more than Colton Parayko.

If the Flyers are going to pick one special team to focus on though, it’d have to be St. Louis‘ power play. The Blues convert 22.1% of opposing penalties into tallies, the sixth-best rate in the league. The man-advantage has been a two-headed attack, with both Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko notching 18 extra-man points. Of the two, the defenseman’s seven goals has been slightly more impressive, leading the Russian right wing by one tally.

A win tonight can do wonders for the Notes. Two points would pull them into a tie with Calgary for the second wildcard in the Conference, and St. Louis would win the games-played tiebreaker by two contests.

Wearing the home orange sweaters this evening are the 26-20-7 Flyers, the fifth-best team in the Metropolitan Division and seventh-best in the Eastern Conference. Although they’ve had their struggles scoring of late, the offense is still the core of this team; their 139 goals ties for 19th-most in the league.

Jakub Voracek has been the man at the helm for the Flyers this year, already notching a team-leading 45 points. That being said, Wayne Simmonds has been the true threat striking fear into the hearts of goalies. He’s buried 21 pucks this season, easily the most in the clubhouse.

I would argue the reason for Philly‘s struggles has been a lack of consistency from the left wing position. As of yesterday, the best at that position is Nick Cousins (5/8/13), who is currently playing on the third line. Michael Raffl and Dale Weise, the first and second-liners, have combined for 16 points. If they were one person (Dale Raffl or Michael Weise?), he’d only have contributed the ninth-most points on the team. If Ron Hextall isn’t actively looking for a top-two left wing before the trade deadline, he’s blatantly not doing his job in my humble opinion.

Regardless of their troubles, Philadelphia is still home to one of the more feared power plays in the league. Led by Captain Claude Giroux‘ 22 man-advantage points, the Flyers have scored on 21.4% of their man-advantage opportunities, the ninth-best rate in the NHL. A lot of those points have been assists from Giroux to Brayden Schenn, who’s 12 power play goals are best in Eastern Pennsylvania.

While a loss this evening isn’t necessarily devastating for Philly, it’s definitely a scenario they’d like to avoid. A Toronto win in New York paired with a Flyers loss drops the Broad Street Bullies to eight place in the conference.

Sure, it’s still a playoff spot, but it eliminates the buffer they had between themselves and the members of the Atlantic Division hoping to make the postseason. Currently, Boston occupies eighth-place, even though they are in third in the division. It effectively blocks any other members of the Atlantic from taking over the second wildcard, as they would first take the Bruins‘ spot and not require the wildcard to qualify.

If that’s confusing, just know the Flyers want to win tonight, like most sports teams prefer to do.

Tonight’s game is the second meeting of the season between these two clubs. They last met December 28 at Scottrade Center and played to a 6-3 Blues win. Hutton was in net for the victory.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Philadelphia‘s Voracek (31 assists among 45 points [both most on the team]) and St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (23 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL] among 50 points [tied for ninth-most in the league]).

The strongest line of the night belongs to the Flyers at -120. That being said, I like the Blues to earn the road upset this evening. Even though both teams haven’t been playing as well as they’d like, St. Louis still has some very strong special teams in their back pocket that could prove to be the difference.

Hockey Birthday

  • Kent Douglas (1936-2009) – The 1963 Calder-winning defenseman spent all but a season of his eight-season career in the NHL, and most of that was in Toronto. In fact, the three-time All-Star’s rookie year was so good, he helped the Maple Leafs to the 1963 Stanley Cup.
  • Adam Henrique (1990-) – A third-round pick by New Jersey in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman is still lacing them up for the Devils. A phenomenal rookie campaign that featured 51 points (a career-high), 57 blocks (another career-high) and 49 takeaways only got him third-place in Calder Trophy voting, but it’s tough to beat guys like Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Only a day after featuring a TorontoBoston game where 11 goals were struck, we turned the tables to a surprisingly defensive matchup, as the Oilers needed a shootout to break a scoreless draw in Montréal in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

We’ll pick up the action in the shootout…

  1. …where Alexander Radulov was the first to take a shot. Cam Talbot made the save.
  2. Third Star of the Game Leon Draisaitl took his turn next, finding the back of Second Star Al Montoya’s net to give Edmonton a 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Paul Byron‘s attempt to level things for the Habs was saved by Talbot.
  4. Mark Letestu found similar fate as Byron in his try to improve the Oil‘s lead.
  5. Max Pacioretty had one final opportunity to pull the Canadiens even, but Talbot was up to the task, securing the bonus point in the standings for Edmonton.

Talbot saved all 22 shots he faced for the shutout victory, leaving Montoya the shootout loss after saving all 32 shots he faced in regulation and overtime.

Thanks to Edmonton, that’s two-straight wins for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling them within nine points of the 59-36-17 hosts.

January 4 – Day 81 – Metropolitan Mayhem

Time to get back to Wednesday night hockey. To make up for the lighter schedule on Monday, there’s quite a few more games than usual tonight, starting at 7 p.m. with Winnipeg at Florida (SN1). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of two more games (Montréal at Dallas [RDS/SN360] and the New York Rangers at Philadelphia [NBCSN/TVAS]), with another two contests waiting until 10 p.m. (Arizona at Vancouver and Colorado at Calgary). Finally, Detroit at Anaheim – this evening’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Philadelphia: A rivalry made only more heated by the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
  • Colorado at Calgary: Joe Colborne makes his first return to the Saddledome after spending the last three seasons there.
  • Detroit at Anaheim: Nothing reminds Red Wings fans of days gone by like a former rivalry.

Nothing personal, Colborne, but that game in Philly is going to be way too good to miss!

New York Rangers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo


EaglesGiants. KnicksSixers. MetsPhillies.

It’s not just tonight’s teams that don’t like each other. It’s a city vs. city rivalry that brings out the best – or worst, depending on your opinion! – in these towns.

Wearing white tonight are the 26-13-1 Rangers, the third best team in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. As has been the case all season, the name of the game in New York has been offense, and they’re very good at that. They’ve scored 134 goals, the most in the league.

Derek Stepan has been at the helm for much of that effort, notching a team-leading 30 points, including 14 points in the last 13 games. That being said, it’s been Chris Kreider who has struck the most fear in opposing goaltenders, burying 15 goals to be the most dangerous scorer for the Blueshirts.

Much of the reason for the Rangers‘ scoring success has been their power play, which ranks fourth-best in the league after converting 22.9% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh takes over in these situations, as his nine power play points are tops on the team, but similar to Stepan, he’s been a better facilitator than goalscorer. On the man-advantage, that role is shared by four skaters – Kreider, injured Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey – that have all lit the lamp four times apiece on the power play.

New York has also been strong on the penalty kill, neutralizing 83.9% of their penalties to rank ninth-best in the NHL. Every Rangers skater has a role, and the penalty kill seems to be Kevin Klein‘s assignment, as his 15 shorthanded blocks are tops in Manhattan.

Clad in orange, the 20-14-5 Flyers play host this evening at the Wells Fargo Center. Similar to New York, offense has been the key to Philly‘s success, as their 112 tallies ties for fifth-most in the league.

Jakub Voracek sweaters have been flying (see what I did there?!?) off the shelves in Philadelphia, as the right wing’s 35 points are the best in town. Then again, Wayne Simmonds has never been hotter. He’s already scored 17 times this season, the most on the club. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll have buried 36 goals by the time the season is complete, four more than last year’s career-high.

The power play has been ticking on Broad Street. The Flyers convert 21.7% of their opportunities, the sixth-best effort in the NHL. This is where Captain Claude Giroux takes command of the ship, already notching 16 power play points this season. Just like Voracek (stop me if you’ve heard something like this today…), Giroux has been a fantastic facilitator, setting up both Brayden Schenn and Simmonds for eight extra-man goals apiece.

New York and Philadelphia have met up only once before this season, a game we featured here at Down the Frozen River. The day after Thanksgiving, the Rangers survived a two-goal surge by the Flyers to win 3-2. Henrik Lundqvist was in net for that victory, winning in-front of 19,981 Philly fans, the biggest crowd the Rangers performed before all November – home or away.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Lundqvist (16 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.28 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (17 goals [ninth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked the Flyers a slight favorite at -115, but I’m not willing to take that bet. New York‘s potent offense is playing against a suspect goaltender, not to mention a weak penalty kill. I have the Rangers winning.

As much as Third Star of the Game Shea Weber tried to hog the attention in to his return to Nashville, it was First Star Max Pacioretty that provided the overtime goal to give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory in yesterdays DtFR Game of the Day.

It was actually the host Predators who got on the board first. With 54 seconds remaining in the second period, Kevin Fiala (Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi) buried a backhander to give Nashville a 1-0 lead going into the third frame.

Weber (Alexander Radulov and Torrey Mitchell) didn’t take too kindly to that, so he leveled the game 4:26 after returning to the ice. Neither club could break the one-all tie, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

With half a minute remaining before the shootout, Pacioretty (Radulov and Nathan Beaulieu) ended the game with a wrister.

What makes Pacioretty’s performance even more impressive is that he took a puck to the foot at this morning’s skate that hurt so much he had to be helped from the ice. Who fired that puck, you ask? Weber, obviously!

Carey Price earns the victory after saving 23-of-23 (95.7%), leaving the overtime loss to Second Star Pekka Rinne, who saved 41-of-43 (95.3%).

Montréal‘s victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 46-24-13, favoring the home squads by 16 points over the roadies.

December 30 – Day 76 – Something’s Phishy

A light, four-game Friday is setting up an exciting end to the 2016 hockey calendar year. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Chicago at Carolina, followed half an hour later by Nashville at St. Louis (SN1/TVAS). Finally, two contests (Philadelphia at San Jose and Anaheim at Vancouver) close out the night, dropping the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

I know we’ve featured both teams already this week, but that FlyersSharks matchup is too attractive to pass up.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoUnknown


Game two of Philly‘s three-game Western road trip brings them to The Tank with a 20-13-4 record and in possession of fifth place in the Metropolitan Division (seventh in the Eastern Conference), even though they’re riding a two-game losing skid. As stated before Wednesday’s game in St. Louis, the Flyers‘ success has originated with their amazing scoring ability, as they’ve buried 109 goals already this season – the fourth-most in the NHL.

Jakub Voracek has been an absolute handful this season for opposing defensemen, as his 35 points are tops on this high-powered offense. That being said, it’s been fellow right wing Wayne Simmonds that really strikes fear into goaltenders with his 17 goals.

Just like Broad Street is home to one of the best offenses in the game, the Flyers are also a dangerous club when given a man-advantage. Philadelphia has converted 22.1% of their power play opportunities to rank seventh-best in the league. Both Captain Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds have been equally active on the power play, each notching 15 extra-man points, but Simmonds’ eight power play goals are tops on the team.

Winners of their last three games – their most recent being their 3-2 overtime victory in AnaheimSan Jose owns a 22-12-1 record for the top spot in the Pacific Division. That success rests on the Sharks‘ defensive success that has yielded only 77 goals – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With a 19-11-1 record in 31 starts, Martin Jones has been the main man in net for San Jose this season. He’s notched a .92 save percentage and 2.08 GAA so far this year – the (t)16th and eighth-best marks among the 41 goalies with 16 or more appearances.

Truly, it’s the Sharks‘ defense that deserves the most credit. They’ve allowed only 26.5 shots-per-game to reach Jones’ net, the second-lowest average in the NHL. Marc-Edouard Vlasic currently takes most credit as his 66 shot blocks are tops on team, but he has only one more rejection than fellow defenseman Brent Burns.

Like you’d expect, The Tank is home to one of the best penalty kills in the game – ninth-best, in fact, refusing to yield a power play goal on 83.7% of opposing opportunities. When down a man, Justin Braun steps up, as his 15 shorthanded blocks are the team best.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (17 goals [sixth-most in the NHL]) and Voracek (24 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league] among 35 points [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) & San Jose‘s Jones (19 wins [tied for second-most in the league] on a 2.08 GAA [eighth-best in the NHL], as well as two shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league).

Vegas has marked San Jose a -169 favorite, almost certainly due in part to the Sharks‘ 12-4-0 record at home going against Philadelphia‘s 8-8-1 road record. Pair that with the Flyers‘ miserable defense, and the reasoning is complete. I expect a good game, but a home winner.

Hockey Birthday

  • Lester Patrick (1883-1960) – Some guys are successful, but few rival Patrick. He hoisted the Stanley Cup six times – twice as a player, and four more times as coach/manager/owner.
  • Rob Scuderi (1978-) – The Piece was a 1998 NHL Entry Draft pick by Pittsburgh, and he played 12 seasons en route to two Stanley Cup titles.

In yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, Edmonton bested the Kings by a score of 3-1.

The Oil waited until 22:32 had ticked off the clock before Third Star of the Game Patrick Maroon (Jordan Eberle and Matthew Benning) buried his wrap-around power play shot. The lone goal of the second period, Edmonton took their 1-0 lead into the second intermission.

Los Angeles leveled the game only 3:05 after returning to the ice when Nick Shore scored an unassisted wrister, his third tally of the season. 3:53 later, First Star Eric Gryba (Eberle and Milan Lucic) scored what proved to be the winning score. After Second Star Peter Budaj had left the ice for the extra attacker, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Leon Draisaitl) provided an insurance goal on the empty net.

Cam Talbot earns the victory after saving 28-of-29 shots faced (96.6%), leaving the loss to Budaj, who saved 32-of-34 (94.1%).

Edmonton‘s victory is the second-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day, setting the record at 43-23-12 to favor the homers by 14 points over the roadies.

December 28 – Day 74 – Get ready for goals

Wednesday night hockey. What more could you ask for? The action you’ve been waiting all day for starts at 7 p.m. with two contests (Toronto at Florida [SN] and Carolina at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by Montréal at Tampa Bay (RDS/SN360). Philadelphia at St. Louis drops the puck at 8 p.m. (NBCSN), preceding tonight’s nightcap – Los Angeles at Vancouver (SN) – by two hours. All times eastern.

Although Florida and Toronto are separated by only a point in the standings, the game that attracts the most attention this evening is happening in the Gateway to the West.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoUnknown




Philadelphia comes to Mound City with a 20-12-4 record, good enough for fifth-place in the Metropolitan Division, and it has been their offense that has led the way.

The Flyers have buried the puck an impressive 106 times, the fourth-highest goal title in the league. Jakub Voracek can take credit for a lot of that success, as his 35 points are tops on the team. That being said, it’s been fellow right wing Wayne Simmonds who has personally lit the lamp the most times, with 16 goals.

As might be expected with such a potent offense, the Flyers‘ power play has been mighty impressive. They score on 22% of their man-advantage opportunities, the sixth-best mark in the NHL. That effort has been headed by Captain Claude Giroux and his 15 power play points, but Simmonds has once again been the final goalscorer, with eight extra-man goals to his credit.

Playing host this evening are the 18-12-5 Blues, the third-best club in the Central Division. Just like the Flyers, offense has been the name of the game in St. Louis, as the Notes have notched 97 goals so far this season – tying for 11th-most in the NHL.

Pull your favorite video game off the shelf. That guy on the front? Yeah, he’s pretty good for the Blues. Vladimir Tarasenko‘s 38 points is easily the best effort on the club. 16 of those have been goals, which is also the highest total in St. Louis by four tallies.

Just like Philly, the Blue Notes are also pretty good on the man-advantage. They’ve scored 21.3% of their power play opportunities, the seventh-best mark in the league. Who else to lead that charge than Tarasenko? He has 14 power play points on his resume this season, but it’s actually been Kevin Shattenkirk scoring most of the power play goals, with five to his credit.

The penalty kill has also been very impressive for the Notes. Rejecting opposing power plays 87.4% of the time, St. Louis is second-best in those regards. Captain Alex Pietrangelo is the headliner here, notching 14 shorthanded blocks so far this year.

Some players to keep an eye on include Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (16 goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and Voracek (24 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league] among 35 points [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) & St. LouisJake Allen (16 wins [seventh-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (38 points [fourth-most in the NHL], including 16 goals [tied for fifth-most in the league]).

Vegas has already marked this game in the Blues‘ favor, placing a -140 next to their name, and I have to side with the wise folks in the desert this time. St. Louis provides an interesting challenge with their strong penalty kill, and are more than capable of keeping up with any other club offensively. Home ice should seal the deal for a Blues victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Terry Sawchuk (1929-1970) – This Hall of Fame goaltender played almost all of his 21 seasons in Detroit, where he won the 1951 Calder and three of his four Stanley Cups. He was an 11-time All Star and four-time Vezina winner.
  • Harry Howell (1932-) – A longtime Ranger, this defenseman played 21 total seasons in the NHL en route to a Hall of Fame career. The seven-time All Star and 1967 Norris winner’s number three was retired in 2009.
  • Ray Bourque (1960-) – The eighth-overall pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, this defenseman is the model for all defensemen who like to get involved on the offensive end. He owns the NHL record for goals, assists and points by blueliners, most of which with the Bruins. That being said, he won his only Stanley Cup title with Colorado in 2001.
  • Rob Niedermayer (1974-) – A right wing drafted fifth-overall by Florida in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Niedermayer played NHL 17 seasons, scoring 469 points in the process. He hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2007 with Anaheim.
  • Curtis Glencross (1982-) – Although undrafted, this left wing has enjoyed nine seasons in the NHL, most of which in Calgary. He notched 242 points over his career, but also made sure to make a positive impact on his community off the ice.

Brent Burns takes credit for the Sharks stealing the bonus point on The Pond in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day series. San Jose beat Anaheim 3-2 in overtime.

The first goal of the game, and the only tally of the opening period, was struck at the 6:30 mark off Paul Martin‘s (Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker) stick with a strong slap shot.

The Ducks leveled 8:22 into the second period when Ondrej Kase (Nick Ritchie and Antoine Vermette) buried a backhanded shot, but San Jose once again took the lead with a Melker Karlsson (Joel Ward and Burns) tally.

With 6:25 remaining in regulation, the orange-clad Ducks scored the overtime-forcing score, courtesy of First Star of the Game Jakob Silfverberg (Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano).

Burns (Joe Pavelski and Second Star Joe Thornton) waited until 2:46 had ticked off the clock before burying his game-winning backhander to end the game in the Sharks‘ favor.

Third Star Martin Jones earned the victory after saving 34-of-36 shots against (94.4%), with John Gibson taking the loss, saving 22-of-25 (88%).

San Jose‘s road victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day Series at 41-23-12 in favor of the home squads, who lead the roadies by exactly 10 points.

December 21 – Day 70 – No love for Washington

If you’re looking for a busy hockey schedule, you’ve picked the wrong night. Only four teams will drop the puck this evening, starting at 8 p.m. eastern time with Washington visiting Philadelphia (NBCSN/SN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Edmonton at Arizona.

The reasons for visiting Philadelphia are endless. It’s a rematch of one of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals from a year ago, but it also features two very good teams that are only qualifying for wild card spots.

Washington Capitals LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo


Sometimes the standings are misleading. This is one of those times. Sure, Philadelphia might be only the fourth-best team in the Metropolitan Division, and Washington an even worse fifth. That is certainly true when compared to the Penguins, Rangers and Blue Jackets. Those teams have been the standard of the league this season, especially with the puck on their stick.

But try this one on for size. If our featured clubs joined the Atlantic Division, they’d claim second and third place, with the Capitals barely beating out now “fourth” place Ottawa on the three-fewer games played tiebreaker.

It gets even more ridiculous when compared to the struggling Western Conference. The Central Division is similar to the Atlantic in that these clubs would also be second and third-best, again with Washington beating out St. Louis on four-fewer games played.

The Pacific? Philly and the Caps both drop division-leading San Jose to third, with Washington once again leading on three-fewer games played.

I think I’ve made my points. The Metropolitan Division, and more specifically for our Game of the Day, Philadelphia and Washington are very good.

Let’s play another fun game and look ahead to the playoffs. Regardless of who claims the top-three spots in the Metropolitan, it looks to be almost certain that the two Eastern wild cards will be from that division. For the sake of our situation, let’s assume the order of the Metropolitan standings remain the same. Currently the second wild card, Washington holds an six-point lead over Tampa Bay and Florida.

For earning that spot, they earn the distinct privilege of playing the best team in the East (and, in my opinion, all of hockey – whether it is the Penguins or Rangers). Philadelphia gets to face the top-seeded Atlantic seed – again, let’s assume it will be Montréal like it is right now.

If I’m Philly, I’m loving this. After a difficult series against the Habs, the Flyers‘ road to the Eastern Finals appears easy, as they get to play the weaker Atlantic teams. That sounds awesome! So awesome, in fact, that Columbus, the current three seed facing the Rangers, could even grow jealous. I’ll be very intrigued to see how the chips fall between the three and five seeds in the Metropolitan Division this March and April.

Keeping all that in mind, this is even more fun given the bad blood between these teams. Washington‘s six game Quarterfinals victory is only fuel on a fire that has been burning since the ’80s, when the Caps swept the Flyers in three games in the first round of the 1984 playoffs. Since then, Washington has amassed a 3-2 playoff series record against the Flyers, but it’s been Philadelphia who has won the regular season series, going 123-94-19.

Tonight is the first time these clubs have met since April, and the Flyers will be looking to defend home ice after losing the deciding Game 6 on the surface.

The 19-8-3 Capitals come to town sporting an impressive defense. They’ve allowed only 64 goals this season, the third-fewest in the entire league.

Of course, most of that credit usually belongs to the goaltender, and 14-7-2 Braden Holtby is no different. He has a .925 save percentage and 2.08 GAA to his credit, the 11th and seventh-best effort among the 14 goaltenders with a dozen or more appearances on their resumes.

While he’s good on his own, part of the reason he’s found such success is because of the defense playing in front of him. Allowing only 28.1 shots against per night, Holtby faces the sixth-fewest pucks per night. That effort has been headlined by Karl Alzner, who has 52 shot blocks to his credit.

That success has continued even when the Caps are short a man. Led by Alzner’s 15 shorthanded blocks, Washington prevents opposing power plays from lighting the lamp 84% of the time, the seventh-best rate in the NHL.

The 19-11-4 Flyers play host this evening at the Wells Fargo Center, the home of the league’s third-most potent offense, having scored 104 goals already this season. They’ve been especially good of late, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 contests.

Jakub Voracek can take credit for many of those scores, as his 34 points the most on the team. For those not quick with math, he has the same number of points as the Flyers have games played. He’s one of 10 skaters who can truly claim an average of that caliber or better. Unfortunately for Voracek, he can’t claim the goal-scoring lead. That belongs to Wayne Simmonds, whose 16 tallies are five more than his.

As might be expected with such an explosive offense, the power play has truly been ticking. The Flyers are fifth-best in the league with the man-advantage, scoring 22.8% of the time. This has been Captain Claude Giroux‘ forte, as he leads the team with 15 power play points. That being said, the final scorer of those goals remains the same: Simmonds has eight extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has also been a point of pride for Philadelphia this year. They’ve refused to allow a goal on 82.8% of opposing opportunities, the 10th-best effort in the league. Ivan Provorov has been incredible under these circumstances, as his 19 shorthanded blocks not only lead the team, but are tied for fourth-most in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (16 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Voracek (34 points, including 23 assists [both tied for sixth-most in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (2.08 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL] for two shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league] among 14 wins [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]).

Although they have home ice to their advantage, Philadelphia is not the favorite to win tonight’s game. Don’t be alarmed though, Flyers fans: the line is only a +105. That being said, I’m sticking with Vegas tonight, because I trust the Capitals‘ offense to take advantage of Philly‘s defense with ease.

Hockey Birthday

  • Frank Patrick (1885-1960) – Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, this defenseman played most of his career in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association with the Vancouver Millionaires, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1915.
  • Joe Kocur (1964-) – A Red Wings pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing played 15 seasons in the league, 10 of which in Detroit. He won three Stanley Cups in his career, including two straight with the Wings in 1997 and ’98.
  • Steve Montador (1979-2015) – 10 seasons this defenseman played in the NHL, playing most of his 571 games for Florida even though he spent more seasons in Calgary. His life met an early end due to CTE caused by cumulative concussions.

Our third shootout in four games gave Florida a 4-3 victory over Buffalo in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Second Star of the Game Aleksander Barkov (First Star Jaromir Jagr and Jason Demers) waited to get the Panthers on the board until 3:51 remained on the clock in the first period. His backhander was the lone tally of the opening frame.

The second goal wasn’t until 12:14 had ticked off the clock in the second, and it also belonged to the home side. Keith Yandle (Barkov and Jagr) takes credit for the twine-tickling power play slap shot. Buffalo didn’t take too kindly to that, so Sam Reinhart (Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan O’Reilly) scored a power play goal of his own to pull the Sabres back within a score. The game was tied with 3:05 remaining in the period when Evander Kane (Brian Gionta and Cody Franson) tipped-in the third and final goal of the second period.

Ristolainen (Reinhart) broke the knot with 7:41 remaining in regulation with a tip-in, but Nick Bjugstad (Barkov and Jagr [That was the 1887th point of his career tonight, tying Mark Messier for second all-time in 94 fewer games played.]) buried his first goal of the season with 3:51 remaining on the clock to force a scoreless three-on-three overtime period.

As the home team, Florida elected to go second in the shootout…

  1. …forcing O’Reilly to take the first shot. Unfortunately for him, Third Star Roberto Luongo was not willing to yield a goal.
  2. Vincent Trocheck took Florida‘s first shot, and it was pure. 1-0 Panthers.
  3. Kyle Okposo tried to pull even with the Panthers, but to no avail. Luongo was once again there for the save.
  4. He scored the first goal of the game, and the last (shh, don’t tell him it doesn’t technically count as a game-winner, or even a goal!). Barkov buries his shot to earn the bonus point for the Panthers.

Luongo earns the victory after saving 33-of-36 shots faced (91.7%), forcing Robin Lehner to take the shootout loss, saving 36-of-39 (92.3%).

That win gives the home teams a 38-23-11 record in the DtFR Game of the Day series to expand their lead to six points over the roadies.

December 8 – Day 57 – Orange you glad I picked two orange teams?

It’s Thirsty Thursday at a hockey rink near you!

*Disclaimer: I do not actually know if it is Thirsty Thursday at your local arena. Please do not assume I know your club’s Thursday promotions.*

The action starts at 7 p.m. with three contests (Colorado at Boston, St. Louis at the New York Islanders and Edmonton at Philadelphia), followed half an hour later by three more (New Jersey at Montréal [RDS/SN360], Vancouver at Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh at Florida). The New York Rangers at Winnipeg drops the puck at the top of the hour, and Nashville at Dallas trails at 8:30 p.m. 9 p.m. marks the beginning of Calgary at Arizona, which precedes tonight’s nightcap – Carolina at Los Angeles – by 90 minutes.

Riding a six-game winning streak, the Flyers are currently playing must-watch hockey. Tonight, they host a good Oilers team, so we’re off to the Wells Fargo Center.

Unknown-5Philadelphia Flyers Logo


Edmonton enters tonight’s game on a streak of their own, but it’s as far from Philly‘s as it can be without being a losing skid – they’ve suffered two-straight overtime losses. The Oilers are 14-10-4 for first place in the Pacific Division, and they’ve gotten to that position by playing an incredible offense that has already notched 82 goals, the most in the Western Conference.

Second-year pro and first-year captain Connor McDavid has headlined that scoring effort this season, notching 36 points in 28 games – the highest point total in the league, much less the Oilers. He’s joined by Leon Draisaitl to co-lead the club with 11 goals apiece.

Much of the success is due to Edmonton taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the form of opposing penalties. The Oil‘s 20.4% success rate is 10th-best in the league, co-led by Draisaitl and McDavid’s 10 man-advantage points. Draisaitl’s effort with the extra-man has been especially impressive, as his seven power play goals ties for second-most in the NHL.

Hosting them this evening are the 15-10-3 Flyers – a club who has earned 40% of their wins in the past 12 days to move into fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. The reason they’ve been able to pull off this streak is due totally to their offense, which has notched 87 goals so far this year.

Who else to lead Philly‘s scoring effort than Wayne Simmonds? His 26 points are just another line item in the long list of things he does for this club. 15 of those points are goals which – you guessed it – is also the best on the squad.

Edmonton‘s power play is good, but Philadelphia‘s is way, way better. Led by Claude Giroux‘ 14 power play points, the Flyers have connected on 23.8% of their man-advantages, the second-best rate in the league. Eight of Simmonds’ goals have been on the power play, double the tally of Giroux to top the squad.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s McDavid (36 points on 25 assists [both lead the NHL]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] among 13 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) & Philadelphia‘s Giroux (18 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Simmonds (15 goals [fourth-most in the NHL] among 26 points [tied for ninth-most in the league]).

Philly is marked the favorite by Vegas with a -130 line, but I like Edmonton to take the victory. My pick is dependent on Cam Talbot having a good game, as he either plays well… or he doesn’t. That being said, the Oil do have the additional advantage of the superior penalty kill in their back pocket, which could still be enough to get them out of Philly with the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Red Berenson (1939-) – This center was a longtime Blue, playing 519 of his 987 games in the Gateway to the West. He notched 658 points over his 17 career, but nowadays he’s the head man at the University of Michigan.
  • Ted Irvine (1944-) – A left wing with 11 seasons of NHL experience, he spent most of his days playing in Madison Square Garden. He notched 331 points in his career.
  • Drew Doughty (1989-) – This defenseman has never played for anyone but the Kings, the club that drafted him second-overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Recipient of last season’s Norris Trophy, he notched 51 points and 105 blocks.

It took 61:36, but the Washington Capitals were able to hold off the Boston Bruins with a 4-3 overtime victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It took only 23 seconds for the Caps to earn their first lead of the game, courtesy of Second Star of the Game Justin Williams (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin). They doubled that lead to 2-0 7:34 later when Williams (Kuznetsov) buried his second of the night with a wrister.

Washington‘s final goal of regulation was struck 5:51 into the second period off a Daniel Winnik (Jay Beagle) wrister. The Bruins waited until 3:25 remained in the frame to begin their impressive comeback with a Dominic Moore (Anton Blidh) wrister. David Pastrnak pulled Boston within a tally with a minute remaining in the second period to set up an exciting third frame.

Only one goal was struck in the remaining 20 minutes, of course belonging to the Bruins. It was Colin Miller (Austin Czarnik and Brad Marchand) who took credit for the game-tying tally with a power play slap shot that eventually forced three-on-three overtime.

Although all momentum was on Boston‘s side, it was First Star Nicklas Backstom (Nate Schmidt and Marcus Johansson) who finished the contest for the Capitals with a game-winning wrister.

Braden Holtby earns the victory after saving 31-of-34 (91.2%), leaving the overtime loss to Tuukka Rask, saving 16-of-20 (80%).

Washington‘s win improves the home sides’ record to 32-19-8 in the DtFR Game of the Day series, a seven-point advantage over the visitors.