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Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 12

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise –  is Connor Keith.

 

New York Rangers at Montréal Canadiens – Game 1

On nights like these, it doesn’t matter who the goal comes from. All that matters is that it goes in the net. That was the case for the Rangers, who bested the Habs 2-0 at the Bell Centre to take an early lead in their playoff series.

After collecting a face-off Tomas Plekanec had originally won for Montréal, Second Star of the Game Tanner Glass sneaked an unassisted backhanded shot over Third Star Carey Price‘s glove shoulder at the 9:50 mark of the first period for what proved to be the netminder’s only goal allowed on the night. Michael Grabner (Jesper Fast) provided the lone insurance tally on an empty net with 70 seconds remaining in regulation.

We knew coming into this series it was a matchup between two incredible goaltenders in 31-20-4 First Star Henrik Lundqvist and 37-20-5 Price, and they didn’t disappoint, combining for 59 saves. Lundqvist saved all 30 he faced for the 10th postseason shutout of his career.

New York truly took command of this game after the first intermission, limiting the Canadiens to only 15 shots over the remaining 40 minutes. Even when the Habs were able to control the posession, the Blueshirts would not let them get a shot on Lundqvist’s net, managing 24 blocks – led by Dan Girardi‘s four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

After going 0-3-1 against the Ottawa Senators in the regular season, the Boston Bruins opened up their edition of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 victory on road ice.

Fresh off of his two-game suspension for the last two games of the regular season, Brad Marchand scored the game winning goal with 2:33 to go in the 3rd period– capping an almost two-minute long shift.

Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson, played a stellar game despite the loss. Anderson made 23 saves on 25 shots faced for a .920 save percentage.

Both teams swapped tremendous chances in the first 20 minutes, but neither Boston’s David Pastrnak, nor Ottawa’s Derick Brassard could score on back-to-back breakaway chances. After an eventful 1st period which nearly witnessed Bruins forward– and Ottawa native– Ryan Spooner pocket one in the twine with about four seconds to go, the score remained tied at 0-0.

The Sens kicked off the series’s goal scoring in the 2nd period with a goal from Bobby Ryan (1) at 10:28. Ryan crashed the net and followed up on one of his own chances, firing the puck short side by Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask. Erik Karlsson (1) notched the only assist on the goal.

For the first time since May 10, 2014 an NHL team was held without a shot in a single period in a Stanley Cup playoff game, as Boston did not record a shot on goal in the 2nd period. The Anaheim Ducks, by the way, were the last team to do so in their matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks wound up winning the game 2-0, however.

After going without a goal in his last 15 games of the regular season, Frank Vatrano (1) found the back of the net with 15:05 to go in the 3rd period in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game. Riley Nash (1) and Adam McQuaid (1) were credited with the assists on the goal.

Vatrano became the 6th Bruin since 1999 to score in his playoff debut and Boston tied the game, 1-1.

Late in the 3rd period, Marchand (1) put the Bruins ahead for the first time in the game with the game-winning goal off of a blocked shot by Dion Phaneuf. Patrice Bergeron (1) and Pastrnak (1) collected the assists on Marchand’s 17th career NHL playoff goal.

Boston’s Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .936 save percentage in the win. The Bruins lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 scheduled for Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre and can be viewed on NBC/TVAS/SN at 3 p.m. ET.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

When Matthew Murray went down in warmups, things were looking grim for the Penguins, at least for their playoff opener. Instead, First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury saved all but one shot faced to lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.

Just like Pierre McGuire said during the broadcast, sometimes the best trade a club can make is the very one they don’t. Trade rumors swirled about the Penguins’ former first-overall pick all season, but he turned in a 31-save performance and a Game 1 victory for First Star honors.

Jeff Zatkoff, anyone? Maybe Fleury has too much playoff experience to be the Pens’ new “Mr. Game 1,” but the story is beginning to sound eerily similar to last year’s Cup run.

Offensively, the Pens showed one period of greatness after a sluggish opening frame. The Jackets held them to only three shots on the opening 20 minutes – including none in the last 14:49 – due in large part to their 23 first period hits .

The Penguins came out on fire after the intermission, notching all three of their tallies. Only 1:15 after returning from the dressing room, Bryan Rust (Second Star Phil Kessel and Third Star Evgeni Malkin) broke the ice with a snap shot. Kessel’s assist was especially impressive, as he used his skate to pass to the right wing.

Rust’s tally was followed only 2:30 later by Kessel’s (Justin Schultz and Malkin) eventual game-winner. Kessel’s tally was a strong power play wrist shot from the near face-off dot over Sergei Bobrovsky‘s glove shoulder.

Nick Bonino (Patric Hornqvist and Olli Maatta) provided Pittsburgh’s final tally with 3:35 remaining in the frame.

Columbus finally got on the board with 7:19 remaining in regulation courtesy of Matt Calvert (Josh Anderson), but the Jackets couldn’t convert any more of their 32 shots on goal into markers.

 

St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Minnesota Wild – Game 1

Overtime game-winners in the playoffs can come from the most unlikely of sources. In Game 1, it was First Star of the Game Joel Edmundson that gave St. Louis the 2-1 overtime victory over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

No matter how hard Minnesota’s offense tried, it could not get past Second Star Jake Allen. The Blues’ goaltender saved 43 straight shots faced for an unblemished effort.

That is, until only 23 seconds remained in regulation. Zach Parise (Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund) scored a wrist shot to match Vladimir Sobotka‘s (Alex Steen) snap shot at the 6:21 mark of the second period to force the first overtime period of the 2017 postseason.

Similar to the Notes’ long playoff run a year ago, the Wild found its success when it made its presence known. Led by Jared Spurgeon and Chris Stewart‘s four checks apiece, Minnesota threw an impressive 28 hits in regulation to St. Louis’ 13, which led to 11 takeaways.

In all, Allen saved 51 shots faced before Edmundson (Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz) scored the game-winning wrister. It wasn’t the prettiest play the Blues have ever run, but they aren’t complaining. Tarasenko was crashing Third Star Devan Dubnyk‘s crease, but lost control of the puck before he could manage a shot. Fortunately for him and his club, the loose puck found the defenseman’s stick and he easily scored on Dubnyk’s stick side.

 

San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 1

The Sharks arguably entered the playoffs in their worst slump of the season, but those losing ways just might be behind them. San Jose beat Edmonton 3-2 in overtime at Rogers Place to take an early one-game lead in their first round series.

San Jose’s worst fears were realized in the first period, as Edmonton’s offense made it known that it has no trouble picking Martin Jones apart when he’s off his game. Both Oscar Klefbom (Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic) and Lucic (Mark Letestu and Connor McDavid) scored in the opening frame to give the Oil an early 2-0 lead.

Playoff experience is one of the most valuable things a club can have. Whether it was the Oilers’ offense not having much of it or the Sharks’ defense being able to match the hosts’ efforts (Edmonton managed only nine shots on goal after the first period), San Jose was able to fight its way back into this contest by constricting Edmonton’s attack. As a result, Joel Ward (Joonas Donskoi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) took advantage of Drake Caggiula‘s hooking penalty late in the opening period to score a power play wrist shot 1:43 into the second.

Paul Martin (Tomas Hertl) completed the comeback 5:22 into the final frame. He buried the rebound off Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s left pad after Hertl’s inial shot to tie the game at two-all and force the second extra-time game of the night.

It only took 3:22 of extra time, but that playoff experience was truly apparent in that time. San Jose fired six shots to the Oilers’ two, and the final one, a snap shot by First Star Melker Karlsson (Joe Pavelski and Valsic), was able to get past Talbot for a Sharks victory.

December 29 – Day 75 – Gretzky game

The last Thursday of 2016 is a busy one in the NHL. A dozen games will take place this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (Boston at Buffalo and New Jersey at Washington [NBCSN]) and another pair half an hour later (Toronto at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Montréal at Florida [RDS]). 8 p.m. brings with it four contests (Chicago at Nashville, the New York Islanders at Minnesota, Columbus at Winnipeg and Detroit at Ottawa [RDSI]), and Colorado at Dallas gets underway 30 minutes later. Lastly, it’s a trifecta of nightcaps (Anaheim at Calgary [SN360], Los Angeles at Edmonton and the New York Rangers at Arizona) when 9 p.m. rolls around to close out the night.

Short list:

  • Boston at Buffalo: Nothing like a little rivalry to get the blood pumping.
  • Montréal at Florida: Al Montoya will get the start in net against the club he played 45 games over two seasons with.
  • Los Angeles at Edmonton: Another rivalry, although it’s nowhere near as Great as it once was (See what I did there? Sneaky.).

Sorry Montoya, but the potential for a good game in Alberta is too great for us to pass up. Off to the brand-new Rogers Place!

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Of course, this rivalry exists/used to exist entirely because of the trade that shipped Wayne Gretzky from the Oilers to the Kings, but it takes new life this year as both teams are currently in playoff position. Of course, that could change if things don’t go the Kings‘ way and either Dallas, Nashville or Winnipeg win this evening.

The Kings make the trip to Edmonton with a 17-14-4 record, good enough for fifth place in the Pacific Division and, more importantly, eighth in the Western Conference – aka the second wildcard! They’ve found that success by playing one of, if not the best defense in the league, allowing only 83 goals – the sixth-fewest in the NHL.

Thanks to Jonathan Quick‘s groin injury in the first game of the season, it has been 15-9-3 Peter Budaj taking most of the starts in Los Angeles. Over that time, he’s accrued a .919 save percentage and 2.04 GAA – the 19th and sixth-best efforts, respectively, among the 44 netminders with 14 or more appearances.

An okay save percentage paired with an excellent GAA is always indicative of a stellar defense, and Tinseltown is no different. Led by Derek Forbort‘s 77 shot blocks and second-in-command Alec Martinez‘ 72, the Kings allow only an average of 25.8 shots to reach Budaj’s net per night, the best in the league by nearly a full shot.

As expected, they continue that effort on the penalty kill, where their 84.2% kill rate is tied for seventh-best in the league. Although the same two culprits are responsible for this charge, Martinez’ 19 shorthanded blocks are five more than Forbort’s.

Unfortunately, the power play hasn’t been able to hold up its end of the bargain. Successful on only 15.7% of opportunities, the Kings tie for ninth-worst in the league. Jeff Carter leads the team with only eight power play points, but that overshadows an impressive six power play goals (ties for 11th-most in the NHL).

Playing host this evening are the 18-12-6 Oilers, the second-best team in the Pacific. Offense is the name of the game in The Big E, as the Oil‘s 103 tallies ties for seventh-most in the NHL.

You get two guesses as to who has the most points in Edmonton. Something tells me you only needed one of those guesses. Captain Connor McDavid‘s 42 points are not only tops in Edmonton, but also the tie with Sidney Crosby for most in the entire league. That being said, it has been Leon Draisaitl who has buries the most pucks for the Oil, with 14 to his credit. He narrowly beats out McDavid’s 13.

Just like Los Angeles, what goes well during even-strength action shines especially bright during special teams. Edmonton‘s 21.2% conversion rate on the power play is eighth-best in the NHL. Draisaitl truly shines here, partially because he and McDavid are both on the first power play unit. The elder center has 14 man-advantage points on his resume already this year (two more than McDavid and Milan Lucic), and also has an impressive eight power play goals (tied for second-most in the league).

These clubs have already met once this season, and the Kings came out on top. They squared off in the Staples Center on November 17 to a 4-2 LA victory. Budaj took credit for the win, and Carter’s shorthanded second period wrister was the deciding score.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s McDavid (29 assists [most in the league] among 42 points [tied for the NHL lead]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] among 17 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Los Angeles‘ Budaj (four shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and a 2.04 GAA [sixth-best in the NHL] for 15 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Carter (19 goals [tied for second-most in the NHL]).

Vegas likes Edmonton to win tonight at -130, and I do too. Not only are the Oil playing at home sweet home, their penalty kill is more than up to the task of squelching the Kings‘ poor power play. I’d even go so far to say that Mark Letestu, who opened the season with two shorthanded goals, could notch his fourth penalty kill point tonight. Who knows?

Hockey Birthday

  • Nels Stewart (1902-1957) – When the Montreal Maroons won the 1926 Stanley Cup, it was this Hall of Fame center who was in the middle of most of the scoring. A two-time Hart Trophy winner, he scored a team-high 34 goals in 36 games played that season.
  • Filip Kuba (1975-) – A Florida-pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played most of his 14 seasons in Minnesota. In 2004, his fourth season with the Wild, he earned a roster spot at the All-Star game.
  • Pierre Dagenais (1978-) – You know you’re wanted when the same team drafts you twice. That’s what happened to this left wing, as New Jersey selected him in both the 1996 and 1998 NHL Entry Drafts. He only played 25 games for the Devils; most of his short NHL career was spent in Montréal.

Notching the first hat trick of his NHL career, First Star of the Game Robby Fabbri led St. Louis past the Flyers in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day series, winning 6-3.

It was actually Wayne Simmonds (Travis Konecny and Brayden Schenn) and Philadelphia getting on the board first, as the right wing tipped-in the puck only 3:25 into the contest. The Notes leveled with 4:59 remaining in the first with a Kevin Shattenkirk (Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko) power play slap shot. With a dozen seconds remaining before the first intermission, Fabbri (Second Star Colton Parayko) notched his first goal of the night with a power play wrister, giving the Notes a 2-1 lead.

Only 4:32 after returning to the ice, Nick Cousins (Ivan Provorov and Konecny) leveled the game for Philly with the lone goal of the second period.

It was an evening of quick starts for the Flyers, as they took a 3-2 lead only 4:13 into the third period with a Schenn (Shayne Gostisbehere and Simmonds) power play slap shot. That lead lasted only 100 seconds before David Perron (Parayko) pulled St. Louis even. 1:20 after that, Third Star Scottie Upshall (Joel Edmundson and Alex Pietrangelo) provided the tally that proved to be the game-winning shot. Those that are good at math know that set the score at 4-3, leaving the final two goals to Fabbri to complete his hatty. He scored at even-strength with 4:59 remaining (Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin), and on an empty net (Jaskin and Paul Stastny) with 2:56 remaining to earn the accolade.

Carter Hutton earned the victory after saving 17-of-20 shots faced (85%), leaving the loss to Steve Mason, saving 19-of-24 (79.2%).

The Notes‘ victory means the home sides in the DtFR Game of the Day series have earned at least a point in the last six matchups, setting the series record at 42-23-12 and improving their lead over the roadies to a dozen points.

October 27 – Day 16 – Bunches of animals are showing up in St. Louis this week. Today it’s Otters.

It’s a busy Thursday, just the way we like them. Per usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. with three puck drops (Minnesota at Buffalo, Arizona at Philadelphia and the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by two more (Florida at Toronto and Tampa Bay at Montréal [RDS/SN360]). The top of the hour marks the start of two contests (Detroit at St. Louis and Dallas at Winnipeg), while this evening’s co-nightcaps wait until 10:30 before starting (Nashville at Los Angeles and Columbus at San Jose). All times eastern.

It’s goin’ be lit.

Short list:

  • Arizona at PhiladelphiaRyan White returns to the Wells Fargo Center, his home for the previous two seasons.
  • New York at Pittsburgh – I don’t need to dress up this rivalry.
  • Florida at TorontoJames Reimer only played eight regular season games with San Jose, so the Panthers are effectively his second team after six seasons with Toronto.
  • Tampa Bay at MontréalMichael Bournival used to call the Bell Centre home. Now his office is in the Sunshine State.
  • Detroit at St. Louis – In addition to being a vintage rivalry, Steve Ott returns to Scottrade Center.

If Reimer were expected to play this evening in Toronto, we’d certainly focus there. Instead, we head to St. Louis with Otter for an old-timey rivalry.

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Center Ott arrived in St. Louis with Ryan Miller when the Blues traded William Carrier, Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart to Buffalo at the 2013-’14 trade deadline. Miller departed for Vancouver after that postseason, but Ott remained until this offseason.

Ever since he entered the league in 2002, Ott has had a reputation for being one of the biggest pests in hockey. His penchant for getting into even the coolest of heads is well-known, as is his ability to cuss out any player in the arena in his native tongue.

It’s an ability that doesn’t show up on his stat sheet. The NHL doesn’t track “Caused Penalties in Minutes,” but if they did Ott would be a league leader. Some of the most recent Blues memories of Ott were against the Blackhawks during last season’s Western Quarterfinals. Ott was regularly getting into it with Jonathan Toews, a player that spent only 62 minutes in the penalty box during the regular season (.775 minutes, or 46.5 seconds, per game). In those seven games, he served 10 minutes – over 1.4 minutes per contest!

But it’s not simply his quick wit and abrasive behavior that has made him a fan favorite with every team he’s played for. During the 2014-’15 season, his first full campaign in St. Louis, he scored 12 points (including nine assists) while throwing 182 hits and 14 blocks. He was also effective at causing turnovers that season, forcing 21 giveaways.

This year, Ott dons the sweater of the Blues‘ former rivals: the 5-2-0 Detroit Red Wings. Before Detroit swapped conferences in 2013, the Blues and Wings shared the same division since 1981, which led to some fantastic matchups when they were both playing well (also read as when St. Louis was playing well).

The Wings enter tonight’s game on a five-game winning streak, tying Arizona for the longest active streak of any variety – except that the Coyotes have been on the losing side of things.

Much of that success has been due to some serious offensive firepower. They’ve scored 24 goals already this year in only seven games played (they average over 3.4 goals per game). Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek take equal responsibility, as they both lead the team with eight points to their credit. Completing the scores have been Darren Helm and Vanek,  each of whom have a team-high four goals to their name.

The 4-2-1 Blue Notes have a .667 winning percentage in the Scottrade Center, and they’ll be looking to improve that to a .750 this evening. Although they play a more well-rounded game than their opposition, St. Louis also prefers to have the puck on their stick.

Just like he’s been the last three seasons, Vladimir Tarasenko has been the star of St. Louis so far this season (that’s why I have him on my fantasy team!). He has eight points to his credit already, four of which are goals – both totals lead the team.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Detroit‘s Helm (+9 [second-best in the NHL]) and Jimmy Howard (.5 GAA [leads the league] on a .984 save percentage [leads the league] for one shutout) & St. LouisJake Allen (2.39 GAA for three wins [both best on the team]) and Tarasenko (eight points [best on the team]).

The Blues barely had the upper hand last year, going 1-0-1 against the Wings by forcing overtime in their first meeting. Vegas predicts St. Louis will keep that run going tonight, as they’re favored at -155. I think that’s a safe assumption. The Blues should win this evening.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Sergei Samsonov (1978-) – This left wing played exactly 888 regular season games, over 500 of which were with Boston. He was drafted eighth overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, seven picks after fellow Bruins-pick Joe Thornton, and a year later the Russian earned the Calder Memorial Trophy.
  • Brandon Saad (1992-) – This is Saad’s second season in Columbus after spending four seasons with ex-division rival Chicago. He’d already scored 179 points before this season started. Maybe he’ll score another tonight in The Tank.

With three goals in the second period, the New York Rangers bested the visiting Boston Bruins 5-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Boston actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead, starting with David Pastrnak‘s (Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara) wrister only 10 seconds into the contest. With 5:16 remaining in the opening frame, the BruinsAustin Czarnik (David Krejci) doubled the visitor’s score with the first goal of his young career.

New York‘s comeback began 44 seconds before the midway point of the game when Second Star of the Game Rick Nash (Derek Stepan and Jimmy Vesey) connected on a power play wrister. 7:19 later, Kevin Hayes (Jesper Fast and Ryan McDonagh) scored his second goal of the season on a wrister to draw the Blueshirts even. 36 seconds before the final horn of the second period, First Star Brandon Pirri (Third Star J.T. Miller and Mika Zibanejad) buried the Rangers‘ second power play goal of the game. That tally ended up being the game winner.

Pirri (Marc Staal and Miller) and Vesey (Nash and Stepan) both scored insurance goals in the final frame to put this game away.

Henrik Lundqvist earns the victory after saving 27-of-29 shots faced (93.1%), while Zane McIntyre takes the loss, saving 26-of-31 (83.9%).

With another home victory, the DtFR Game of the Day series favors the home sides by six points with a 11-6-1 record.