Tag Archives: Wayne Simmonds

Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

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Philadelphia Flyers 2017-2018 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers

39-33-10, 88 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division (’16-’17)

Additions: G Brian Elliott, F Corban Knight, F Jori Lehtera, F Phil Varone, F Brendan Warren

Subtractions: F Chris Conner (signed with Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL), F Nick Cousins (traded to ARI), D Michael Del Zotto (signed with VAN), F Roman Lyubimov (signed with HC CSKA Moscow, KHL), G Merrick Madsen (traded to ARI), G Steve Mason (signed with WPG), F Andy Miele (signed with Malmö Redhawks, SHL), D Jesper Pettersson (signed with Djurgårdens IF, SHL), F Brayden Schenn (traded to STL), F Eric Wellwood (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boyd Gordon, D Nick Schultz, F Chris VandeVelde

Offseason Analysis: Philadelphia Flyers general manager, Ron Hextall, didn’t play the Powerball, but may have won the lottery after all– considering the fact that the Flyers moved from 14th to 2nd overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft via the draft lottery and were then able to select Nolan Patrick from the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Landing Patrick over New Jersey’s 1st overall pick, Nico Hischier, might resemble the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in initial success. Edmonton Oilers 2010 1st overall pick, Taylor Hall didn’t have much of a team around him in Edmonton in his rookie season of 2010-2011, while Boston’s Tyler Seguin had the eventual 2011 Stanley Cup champions as his linemates.

Hischier joins the rebuilding Devils, while Patrick landed on the middle-of-the-road Flyers and if you’re a fan of either of those teams, you’re probably hoping that the first two picks of the 2017 draft aren’t a full repeat of the 2010 draft, where Hall was traded to New Jersey just last year and Seguin was dealt to Dallas in 2013.

Hextall didn’t have to patch much on Philadelphia’s front lines. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier still exist, while Valtteri Filppula continues to be an underrated force of nature that he is as a top-9 forward.

Patrick joins the influx of youth in the City of Brotherly Love, where Travis Konecny dangles and scores goals and Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere shut down opposing teams on the blue line.

The Flyers currently have five defensemen on their NHL roster and shouldn’t be too worried about how the sixth spot and depth spot will fill out– alas, this is the reason why training camp and the preseason exist.

But while Hextall had an easy offseason of minor tweaks to the roster, a couple of key components from last season’s team are no longer members of the franchise.

Brayden Schenn was dealt to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (Morgan Frost) and a conditional 2018 1st round pick. Nick Cousins was sent to Arizona in a trade that involved other, less important, components. More importantly, Steve Mason was not offered a contract and jettisoned for the Winnipeg Jets via free agency as Brian Elliott agreed to terms with Philadelphia on a 2-year, $2.750 million per year contract.

Entering his fourth NHL season, Lehtera is coming off of a career worst seven goals, 15 assists (22 points) performance in 64 games played last season (due to injuries and otherwise). Healthy and in need of a change of scenery, Lehtera appears to be reinvigorated and ready to slide in alongside the likes of Giroux, Voracek, Konecny, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl and Jordan Weal.

Since the late 1990s, the Flyers have had about 3,000,000 million different starting goaltenders. Okay, the real number is somewhere around 30, but the point is this– Philly may have found a number one starter in Brian Elliott.

After being traded to the Calgary Flames from the St. Louis Blues, Elliott went on to appear in 49 games– the most he’s played since the 2009-2010 season (55 games with the Ottawa Senators). Last season, Elliott’s numbers (a 2.55 goals against average and a .910 save percentage) nearly reflected that of his 2009-2010 season (2.57 GAA with a .909 SV% in 6 more games than his 2016-2017 campaign).

Yes, Elliott was considerably worse in Calgary than in St. Louis. He never had a GAA above 2.28 with the Blues (and his 2.28 GAA came in 24 games during the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season). His final year with St. Louis (2015-2016) amassed a 2.07 GAA and a .930 SV% in 42 games played en route to a Western Conference Finals appearance (and loss to the San Jose Sharks).

Granted, St. Louis had a defense in front of him– and an offense, for that matter– all of his years in a blue note, while Elliott’s short stint with the Flames was largely unprotected. There was no 1A/1B scenario, unlike when Elliott played with Jake Allen in St. Louis and Calgary’s defense was not of the caliber of Colton Parayko and all who came before him on the Blues.

But Elliott is determined to find his game again on a stable roster, where Gostisbehere, Provorov, Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning look to hold down the fort in the defensive zone.

And if Elliott has a bad night or an off-week, then Michal Neuvirth is more than ready to step in and tame the crease, like how the Blues juggled Elliott and Allen for a few seasons.

Coming off a season with a -17 goal differential, the Flyers will need to replace a two-time 50-point scorer (Schenn) with more than what they brought in during the offseason. Hextall is opting for the build from within strategy, having witnessed an impressive rookie campaign from Konecny and since landing Patrick 2nd overall in June.

Inaction can work, as the old saying “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken” goes, but will it be enough to put Philadelphia back into Stanley Cup contention for the first time since 2010, let alone back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Offseason Grade: C

Simply put, the Flyers could’ve gotten more up front in the Brayden Schenn deal, it seems, from either the Blues or literally any other team and that hampers their offseason success in finding a suitable replacement for Steve Mason as one of their goalies by signing Brian Elliott.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

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

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

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

Anaheim Ducks

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

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

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

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

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

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

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

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

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

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

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

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

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

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

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

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

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

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

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

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

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

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

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

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

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

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

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

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

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

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

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

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

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

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

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

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

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

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

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

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

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

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

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

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

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

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

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

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

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

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

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

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

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

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

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

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

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

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

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

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

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

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

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

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

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

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

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

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

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.