Tag Archives: Weight

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

A dozen games are on the schedule today, so let’s hop right in with our list!

A pair of games (Vancouver at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Columbus [NHLN/SN1]) get the action underway at 2 p.m., followed by seven (Calgary at St. Louis [CITY], Toronto at Buffalo [CBC], Ottawa at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Chicago at Florida [NHLN], Carolina at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders and Arizona at Washington) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck an hour later, followed by Colorado at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. Finally, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Buffalo: Only two more editions of the Battle of the QEW go down this season, and one is tonight.
  • Ottawa at Montréal: Speaking of rivalries, this one is kind of important since it could determine who raises an Atlantic Division banner.
  • Chicago at Florida: For five seasons, Brian Campbell was a member of the Panthers‘ blueline. This offseason, he decided to return to the Windy City.
  • Boston at New York: These clubs are currently tied for the second wildcard, but they won’t be after tonight.
  • San Jose at Nashville: Remember last year’s Western Semifinals? The Predators would probably like to exact some revenge tonight.

Since both the Canadiens and Senators are all but locks to for this year’s postseason, let’s head back to Brooklyn with the Islanders for their wildly important matchup with Boston.

 

The 38-30-6 Bruins have been in the playoff picture – or right outside it – for almost the entire season. A mistimed four-game losing skid (then again, when does a four-game losing skid ever come at an appropriate time?) has felled them to the second of those two categories.

Of course, this is not the first position Boston has lost in the last month. For a long while, the Bruins actually had command of third place in the Atlantic Division, but they ceded that too to a Maple Leafs team that has won seven of its last 10 games.

The main reason for this fall from grace? I’d argue sub-par play in net by 33-20-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s been in net for all four of these contests, and the Bruins have allowed an average of five goals against. In fact, his .842 save percentage and 4.53 GAA from March 16 through last night’s action is the fifth and second-worst efforts in the NHL, respectively, in that time span.

“But Rask is a great goaltender!” said Bruins fans.

And I agree; yes, he is great. He’s also no spring chicken anymore. Rask just celebrated his 30th birthday not too long ago, which makes him older than the average goaltender throughout the 2000s (per Quant Hockey), whether by mean (28.81) or median (28.3).

Whether you’re in the camp of believing Bruce Cassidy needs to play 5-5-1 Anton Khudobin more often or Don Sweeney needs to provide a better backup than a nearly 31-year-old Russian is inconsequential to the fact that Rask needs more breaks. With 59 starts, Rask has played the third-most games in a NHL crease this season, and the other two goalies with more starts are younger than him (though not by much in Cam Talbot‘s case).

Making the exhausted netminder’s demise even more troublesome is that the defense playing in front of him is one of the better – and improving – corps in the league. Over this sour stretch, they’ve allowed only 117 shots to reach his net (29.25 per game), which is barely worse than their 25.6 average allowed per game for the entire season that ranks second-best in the league.

He doesn’t wear the Bruins‘ “C” for nothing. Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that effort with his team-leading 124 shot blocks, followed closely behind by Adam McQuaid‘s 122. Center Patrice Bergeron has also been very impressive on the defensive front, as his 59 takeaways are second-most on the club. Brad Marchand has one more for the squad lead, but he also tops (Or would it be bottoms?) the team in the opposite statistic with his 74 turnovers.

When looking at the season as a whole, Boston usually finds more than enough success on the penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is sixth-best in the league. Of course, this rough patch hasn’t been so kind. The Bruins have allowed seven power play goals against (you guessed it, most in the league in this time-span) for a measly 63.1% kill rate.

One thing that has gone Boston‘s way over the past 10 days has been their power play. Co-led by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner‘s three man-advantage points, as well as David Krejci and David Pastrnak‘s two man-advantage goals, the Bruins have scored on 35.7% of their opponents’ penalties – the best mark in the league in that span. That’s not exactly a surprise though. Boston has been successful on 21.2% of their power plays all year, the eighth-best rate in the league.

First it was the Leafs taking advantage of the Bruins‘ fall from grace. Now it’s the 35-26-12 Islanders, a team riding a two-game winning streak.

This success is a far cry from where New York was before Doug Weight took command of the ship. Former head coach Jack Capuano had only managed a 17-17-8 record – the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Isles have gone on an 18-9-4 run to climb back into the eighth place in the East. In fact, that’s the fifth-best record in the league since Capuano’s firing, better even than teams like Columbus and Nashville.

The main reason for that improvement is New York‘s potent offense. The Islanders have buried 96 goals under Weight, which ties for the fourth-highest total in the league since January 17. Behind that effort is none other than John Tavares, who’s registered 32 of his 64 points on the campaign. Anders Lee also came alive, as he’s registered 13 goals to lead the team during the Weight-era.

Ready to be even more impressed by the Islanders‘ resurgent offense? They do it almost exclusively at even-strength. In fact, New York‘s power play is borderline atrocious, as they only convert 15.8% of their opportunities – the fifth-worst rate in the league.

If recent history is any indicator, it looks like the Bruins are on their way to their fifth-straight loss, as they have yet to beat New York this year in their previous two meetings. The last time these clubs ran into each other was January 16 in Boston. Between Nikolai Kulemin‘s two-goal night (one-sixth of his season total!) and Thomas Greiss‘ 32-save shutout, the Islanders walked out of the TD Garden with a 4-0 victory.

Ironically, that was Capuano’s last game as head coach of the Isles. My, how the story has come full circle.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

Though they might be a little tired from their shootout victory in Pittsburgh last night, I’m inclined to pick the Islanders right now. Something tells me that only one day off is not enough for Rask, and everything seems to be going New York‘s way right now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Wregget (1964-) – Toronto selected this goaltender 45th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Penguins. By the time his career was through, he’d earned a 225-248-53 record and hoisted the 1992 Stanley Cup.
  • Ladislav Benysek (1975-) – This defensemen was selected in the 11th round by Edmonton in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his four-year career in the league with Minnesota. Over 161 games in the NHL, he accumulated only 15 points for a -28 rating.

With their 4-3 shootout victory against Pittsburgh in the DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have improved to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

With six goals in regulation, you’d figure there’d be two a period, right? Not last night. Instead, five were struck in the second frame, and another in the third.

The scoring started 1:54 after beginning the second period when Third Star of the Game Cameron Gaunce (Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel) buried a slap shot for the second goal of his career. 2:54 later, Second Star Brock Nelson (Joshua Ho-Sang and Alan Quine) tied the game at one-all, the score that held until Lee (Bailey and First Star Tavares) scored a wrist shot to give New York the lead 4:30 later. Now it was Pittsburgh‘s turn to pull even, and Sidney Crosby (Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary) was up to the task with 6:19 remaining in the frame. With five seconds remaining before the second intermission, Casey Cizikas (Tavares) found the back of the net to send the Isles to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.

After all that action, the final goal of regulation wasn’t struck until 6:10 remained in regulation. Cullen (Gaunce and Kessel) scored his wrister to tie the game at three-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five minute three-on-three overtime period.

Looks like this one will have to be decided in the shootout. The Pens elected to go second…

  1. …meaning Anthony Beauvillier was up first. He scored on Marc-Andre Fleury, giving New York an early shootout lead.
  2. Kessel had the chance to tie the shootout, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task and made the save.
  3. Weight called Tavares’ number next as if he knew the captain would score him another goal. With a 2-0 shootout lead, the Pens were in a miss-and-lose situation.
  4. Speaking of captains, that’s exactly who took Pittsburgh‘s next shootout attempt. Crosby had better luck than Kessel and scored his shot to keep the Penguins alive.
  5. Andrew Ladd took what proved to be the Islanders‘ final shootout attempt, but was unable to beat Fleury to win the game.
  6. Instead, Halak provided the victory by saving Nick Bonino‘s shot.

Halak saved 37-of-40 shots faced (92.5%) for the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Fleury after he stopped 43-of-46 (93.5%).

It was the second-straight DtFR Game of the Day to be decided by shootout, but the fact that this one was decided by the 80-56-23 visitors gives them a one-point advantage over the road teams in the series.

January 31 – Day 104 – A real test

I hope you enjoyed your All-Star break, because we’re back on the hockey circuit and won’t stop until April 9.

I tried to make that sound as bad as possible, but I think all I did was make hockey fans more excited.

We get back to action with a bang, as all but two teams are fighting for two points tonight. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when four games (Washington at the New York Islanders, Columbus at the New York Rangers, Nashville at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Carolina) drop the puck, trailed half an hour later by another quartet of contests (Buffalo at Montréal [RDS], New Jersey at Detroit, Boston at Tampa Bay [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Ottawa at Florida [RDS2]). Winnipeg at St. Louis gets underway at 8 p.m., followed 30 minutes later by Toronto at Dallas. 9 p.m. marks beginning of two matches (Minnesota at Edmonton and Los Angeles at Arizona), with Colorado at Anaheim (SN/SN1) waiting until 10 and tonight’s nightcap, Chicago at San Jose, dropping the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Washington at New York: It’s rivalry night in Brooklyn.
  • New Jersey at Detroit: Kyle Quincey was drafted by the Wings and spent eight seasons with the club over two stints.

Sorry Quincey, but since Doug Weight has taken control of the Islanders, they’ve been playing as well as anybody. This rivalry cannot be missed tonight, as it will show a lot about New York‘s potential for the rest of the season.

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

Yes, the Isles have gone 4-0-1 since Weight has taken over, but they have yet to face the likes of the 33-10-6 Capitals. Then again, there’s not many that can claim to be as good as Washington either, as they have a three-point lead over the second-best team in the league.

The reason for their success? Their defensive prowess. The Caps have allowed only 102 goals this season, the fewest in the league.

As it does with every defensive team, it all starts with the goaltender: 24-8-4 Braden Holtby. Last year’s Vezina winner has a season .93 save percentage and 1.96 GAA, the second-best effort in the league among the 45 goalies with at least 19 appearances.

But Washington doesn’t simply rely on one of the best netminders in the game – they also play impressive defense. Led by Karl Alzner‘s team-leading 97 shot blocks, the Capitals allow only 28.2 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s crease, the seventh-best effort in the NHL.

As you’d expect from a defense of that caliber, opposing power plays don’t find very much successes against the Caps. Washington is the home of the fourth-best penalty kill in the league, stopping 85.1% of opposing man-advantages dead in their tracks. Once again, Alzner leads that effort. as his 27 shorthanded blocks both top the team and tie for second-most in the league.

After reading that, fans that follow the 21-17-9 Islanders closely are already a little bit concerned, because they know where, even if they are riding a two-game winning streak, their team has struggled this season: on the offensive end.

He’s no Mike Bossy, but the Islanders offense is, for the third-straight season, all about Captain John Tavares. Once again, he leads the club with 40 points and 19 goals, but the big issue this year is that there is no more than one other major offensive threat. Beyond Anders Lee and his second-most 17 tallies, there is not another scorer on the team with more than 10 goals. In comparison, the Capitals have five players that have lit the lamp 13 or more times.

This is no more apparent than when New York is on the power play, as they’ve only converted 14.6% of opponents’ penalties into goals – the fifth-worst rate in the league. It’s the same folks leading this effort, as Tavares’ 11 power play points are tops on the team, as are his and Lee’s five power play goals.

That all being said, it seems Weight, himself a successful center during his playing days, is working to resolve that. Since he’s taken command of the ship, his team has scored a combined 16 goals over five games (3.2 goals per game), well above their season average of 2.87. That includes their last two contests when they beat the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price with seven total goals.

One thing not entirely in Weight’s bailiwick is the penalty kill, which has also been a liability this season. New York is 10th-worst on the season when down a man, yielding a goal 19.9% of the time even though Calvin de Haan has done all he can to keep pucks off net with his team-leading 24 shorthanded blocks. Since Weight has taken over the Islanders, the penalty kill has performed well 81.8% of the time, which ties for 11th-best over that stretch.

Tonight is the rubber match between these clubs, as they both finished their last meeting with identical 2-2-0 records in the series. That game was on December 27, and the Isles used the energy of the filled-to-capacity Barclays Center to beat the visiting Capitals 4-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.928 save percentage [fifth-best in the NHL] for a 2.25 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Dennis Seidenberg (+21 [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (34 assists [tied for second-most in the league] among 47 points [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]), Holtby (six shutouts [most in the league] and a 1.96 GAA [tied for second-best in the NHL] and .93 save percentage [third-best in the league] for 24 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), Dmitry Orlov (+21 [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Brooks Orpik (+27 [tied for second-best in the NHL]) and Alex Ovechkin (23 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

I know that the Islanders are rolling right now, but I expect Washington to be too good defensively to let New York break through. Obviously the goal is to win, but the Isles remaining competitive in this game will be a major indicator to see if they can overtake the Flyers for the eight seed before the season ends.

Hockey Birthday

  • Camille Henry (1933-1997) – This center played almost exclusively for the Rangers over his 14-season career, and they were happy to have him. He was a three-time All Star and won the 1954 Calder and 1958 Byng trophies.
  • Bob Turner (1934-2005) – Although this blueliner played only eight seasons, they were eight impressive ones. All but two of his campaigns were spent in Montréal, and he was awarded with just as many Stanley Cups as All-Star nominations: five.

January 22 – Day 99 – We’re seeing orange

It’s our last Sunday of action before the All-Star break, and six different games will be played before the day is through. The action starts at 12:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers at Detroit (NBC), followed by Boston at Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. (NHLN/SN) and Columbus at Ottawa (RDS2) at 5 p.m. Philadelphia at the New York Islanders drops the puck at 6 p.m., followed 90 minutes later by Vancouver at Chicago (NHLN/SN). Finally, Nashville at Minnesota drops the puck at 8 p.m. as the last game of the day. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Detroit: Everybody loves an Original Six rivalry, right?
  • Boston at Pittsburgh: NFL fans can treat this as a preview for the SteelersPatriots AFC Championship game.
  • Philadelphia at New York: Doug Weight hasn’t lost a game since taking over as coach.
  • Vancouver at Chicago: Back when the Canucks were one of the big players in the Western Conference, their series against the Blackhawks was must watch TV.

The Eastern Conference is so tight that the Islanders, currently sitting in last place, could pull within three points of the second wild card with a victory tonight. Let’s head back to Brooklyn to see if the Isles are truly pulling something together.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since the 22-19-6 Flyers have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series. They’ve had a tough go of it during that span, including their current three-game losing skid. Due to those mistakes, Philadelphia currently finds themselves in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the conference, a point behind Toronto for the second wild card. The main reason? Goaltending. It’s allowed 148 goals in 47 games, which ties for the third-worst rate in the league.

As has been the case since the 2013-14 season after he was traded to Philadelphia, 14-15-6 Steve Mason has been the goalie of choice on Broad Street. Unfortunately, his .897 save percentage and 2.95 GAA are (t)41st and (t)37th in the league against 46 other goalies with at least 17 appearances.

Mason has to take full responsibility too, as his defense is doing all they can. Led by rookie Ivan Provorov‘s 92 shot blocks, the Flyers‘ blueline has allowed only 28.9 shots-per-game to reach Mason’s crease, the eighth-fewest in the league.

As expected, that issue continues to rear its ugly head on the penalty kill, where the Flyers‘ 80% kill rate ties for 10th-worst in the NHL. Philly has been shorthanded 145 times – the 14th-fewest in the league – but Mason’s .853 save percentage against the power play is 34th-worst.

The Flyers cover up for that deficiency by excelling on their own power plays. Successful on 21.8% of attempts, they rank ninth-best in the league. Captain Claude Giroux has been an important facet of that effort with his 21 power play points, but Brayden Schenn has been the most has been the most powerful goalscorer, with 11 man-advantage tallies.

As stated before, 19-17-8 New York is certainly down, but in no way out of the playoff discussion. Much of the issue this season for the Islanders has been their offense, which has managed 126 goals so far this season – the 15th-fewest in the league.

Captain John Tavares has been at the head of that effort with his 36 points. Impressively, most of those points have been goals, and those 19 tallies are also tops in Brooklyn.

The real offensive issue has been the Isles‘ inability to capitalize on prime opportunities. Converting only 14.6% of power plays into goals, New York is fifth-worst in the league with the man-advantage. Nick Leddy and Tavares have done all they can to help the cause with their co-leading 10 power play points, and Anders Lee joins the captain with five extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has also been a big issue for New York. Just like Philadelphia, the Islanders have stopped only 80% of opposing power plays to tie for the 10th-worst effort in the NHL. Calvin de Haan can’t take the blame for the team’s failures, as his 22 shorthanded shot blocks not only lead the team, but also tie for 15th-most in the league.

These squads have only met up one time previously this season, with the Flyers winning 3-2 in a shootout in early November on the same surface they’ll be playing on tonight. New York‘s goaltender that night was Jaroslav Halak, the veteran with 11 seasons of experience that currently finds himself playing in the AHL after clearing waivers.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Jakub Voracek (41 points on 150 shots [both lead the team]).

Vegas has picked New York to win tonight’s game with a -125 line. Personally, I like Philadelphia, based solely on their offensive and power play efficiency. Tonight could be the night they get out of their funk and return to winning ways.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bill Durnan (1916-1972) – This Canadiens-lifer may have only been in net for seven seasons, but they were some incredible campaigns. Not only did he win two Stanley Cups, he was also a three-time All Star and six-time Vezina winner, all adding up to a 1964 Hall of Fame induction.
  • Elmer Lach (1918-2015) – Another player that spent his entire career in Montréal, this center played in just as many All Star games as he won Stanley Cups: three. The Hall of Famer was also the 1945 Hart and 1948 Ross winner over the course of his 14-season career.
  • J.C. Tremblay (1939-1994) – This blueliner hoisted the Stanley Cup five times during his 13 seasons in the NHL, all with – you guessed it – Montréal. He also played in seven All Star games between his NHL and WHA careers.
  • Serge Savard (1946-) – It seems if you want to play for the Canadiens, you should be born today, as this blueliner spent all but two of his 17 seasons in Montréal. As far as he’s concerned, seven Stanley Cups, four All Star selections, the 1969 Smythe and 1979 Masterton all adds up to a Hall of Fame induction.
  • Mike Bossy (1957-) – Yet another decorated player, this right wing was drafted 15th-overall by the Islanders in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, where he played all 10 years of his career. He was a member of those infamous New York squads that won the Stanley Cup four-straight times, and also took home his share of personal accolades, including seven All Star selections, three Byng trophies, the 1978 Calder and the 1982 Smythe. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • David Vyborny (1975-) – Drafted 33rd-overall by Columbus in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing played all his seven NHL seasons with the Jackets. By the time he left for the Czech Extraliga, he’d notched 317 points.
  • Ben Eager (1984-) – Although picked 23rd-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Phoenix, this left wing never suited up for the Coyotes. Instead, he spent most of his nine-year career in Chicago, where he was a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup team.

It took a shootout, but the Senators won last night’s edition of the Battle of Ontario 3-2 in the DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one tally was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the victorious visitors. Bobby Ryan (Marc Methot and Chris Neil) is the guilty party with his slap shot with 5:58 remaining in the frame.

Similarly, there was only one goal in the second period, but this one counted for the Leafs. Tyler Bozak (James van Riemsdyk and Second Star of the Game Nazem Kadri) takes credit with his power play snapper at the 7:31 mark of the frame.

Seven minutes into the third period, Matt Martin (Jake Gardiner and Kadri) scored to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead, a lead they almost turned into a victory. Instead, Third Star Mike Hoffman (Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf) buried his power play slap shot with 1:11 remaining in regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

Since neither club could find a winner in those five minutes, we were treated to a shootout. As the home team, Toronto elected to go first.

  1. If anything is alluding rookie Auston Matthews, it’s the shootout. His shot was saved by Mike Condon, lowering his shootout shot percentage to 16.7%.
  2. Ryan pounced on that opportunity for the Senators, burying his shot for a 1-0 lead.
  3. Mitch Marner answered the call for Toronto to level 1-1.
  4. Kyle Turris was next up for the Sens, but his shot was saved by Frederik Andersen.
  5. Next up for the Leafs was van Riemsdyk, but it seemed as if it simply wasn’t his night in the shootout as he blatantly missed the net.
  6. With an opportunity to clinch the bonus point, Karlsson attack Andersen’s net, but the goalie was up to the pressure and made the save.
  7. Bozak ended up being the final Leaf to take his turn, but his shot met the same fate as Matthews’: saved by Condon.
  8. First Star Tom Pyatt provided the winner. Making it more impressive, it was the first shootout goal of his NHL career in three attempts.

Condon earns the victory after saving 31-of-33 shots faced (93.9%), leaving the shootout loss to Andersen, saving 25-of-27 (92.6%).

Ottawa‘s victory is the second-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands in favor of the hosts by only four points with a 52-34-15 record.

January 21 – Day 98 – Saturday night is rivalry night

Eleven games. Yes, 11. What a way to spend a Saturday. We get an early start today, as St. Louis at Winnipeg gets underway 3 p.m., and another matinee drops the puck two hours later with Carolina at Columbus. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings with it four games (Ottawa at Toronto [CBC/CITY/TVAS2], Buffalo at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Los Angeles at the New York Islanders and New Jersey at Philadelphia), and another trio begin an hour later (Tampa Bay at Arizona, Washington at Dallas [NHLN] and Anaheim at Minnesota). The final two games drop the puck within half an hour of each other: Edmonton at Calgary (CBC/SN) starts first at 10 p.m., with Colorado at San Jose acting as this evening’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Ottawa at Toronto: The Battle of Ontario rages on in the biggest city in Canada.
  • New Jersey at Philadelphia: The Jersey Turnpike connects these two cities, but that doesn’t mean their hockey teams like each other.
  • Edmonton at Calgary: Another rivalry takes place in the province of Alberta.
  • Colorado at San Jose: After Matt Nieto spent four seasons with the Sharks, he was claimed off waivers two weeks ago by the Avalanche.

There’s no way we’re missing a rivalry that could result in Toronto a massive shakeup in the Atlantic Division. To the Air Canada Centre we go!

Unknown-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know we just featured this matchup last Saturday, but the stakes just keep getting raised in this rivalry. With a regulation win this evening, the Leafs will improve from from fourth place in the division to second. Pair that with a Flyers victory, and the Bruins find themselves outside of playoff position for the night.

The impact this game could have on the standings is incredible.

Ottawa begins the third Battle for Ontario on a two-game winning streak and in possession of second place in the Atlantic with a 24-15-4 record. They’ve found that success by not allowing opponents to score, allowing only 110 goals this season, which ties for fifth-fewest in the league.

12-7-3 Mike Condon has been the man between the pipes more often than not for the Senators this season. As indicated by his record, he’s done a decent job, as his .92 save percentage and 2.31 GAA are both tied for 13th best among the 52 netminders with at least 11 appearances this year.

It’s been important for Condon to have the success he’s had, as the defense playing in front of him has been far from incredible. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s team-leading 114 blocks (tied for second-most in the NHL), the Senators allow 30.4 shots-per-game to reach their goalie’s crease, tied for the 12th-worst effort in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 21-14-8 Maple Leafs. Given their most recent first-round draft choice, it should be no surprise that their resurgence is due to offensive success. They’ve scored 133 goals so far this year in 43 games – the sixth-best rate in the league.

It remains to be seen if Auston Matthews can be the one to lead Toronto to the Promised Land for the first time in 50 years, but he’s certainly making a good impression in his rookie season. His 38 points are enough to lead the club, as are his 22 goals.

What is most impressive is the Leafs‘ power play. They’ve managed to be second in the NHL with the man-advantage, converting 24.1% of opponent’s penalties into goals. This has been where fellow rookie William Nylander has shone, as his 15 power play points are tops on the team. That being said, the true striker of the special teams unit plays on the other power play line, as Nazem Kadri‘s nine extra-man goals are the best on the squad and tied for second-most in the NHL.

These Leafs are truly a complete team, as the other special team has been just that: special. Toronto‘s penalty kill ranks fourth-best in the NHL, refusing to yield a tally on 84.9% of their infractions. Mark Giordano has been a big part of that effort with his team-leading 32 shorthanded blocks.

Twice these teams met already this season, and twice it’s been in the Canadian capital. As these clubs will only meet four times total this year, the Battle of Ontario shifts to Toronto, and the Leafs bring back a 1-0-1 series lead.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Ottawa‘s Condon (three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (30 assists [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (19 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Matthews (22 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Toronto a -139 favorite, and with good reason. They’ve been playing some fantastic hockey over the last month, going 9-2-1 since December 22. What sets the Leafs apart today is their dominance in the special teams play. Unless Condon plays lights-out, I don’t see the Leafs dropping a second-straight home game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Georges Vezina (1887-1926) – Vezina won three Stanley Cups over his nine seasons with Montréal, and the Hall of Famer is remembered today by the trophy awarded annually to the league’s best goaltender. Unfortunately, his life was cut short at the age of 39 due to tuberculosis.
  • Doug Weight (1971-) – The 34th-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, this four-year All Star played 19 seasons – most of which in Edmonton. He hoisted the lone Stanley Cup of his career in 2006 in Carolina, followed five years later by the Clancy. Of course, he just made his coaching debut Thursday, leading his Islanders to a three-goal shutout victory.
  • Andrei Zyuzin (1978-) – San Jose drafted this defenseman second-overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, but he played most of his 10-season career in Minnesota. He finished his playing days with a -40 goal-differential.
  • Dany Heatley (1981-) – Another second-overall pick, this left wing was selected by Atlanta in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, though he played most his career in Ottawa. It was a magical rookie season for Heatly, as he took home the 2002 Calder before earning three All Star selections over his 13-season career.
  • Jonathan Quick (1986-) – Los Angeles drafted this goaltender in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s never worn another sweater since. The Kings made a good selection, as they’ve hoisted the Stanley Cup twice on a netminder that won the 2012 Smythe and the 2014 Jennings. Unfortunately, the All-Star suffered a groin injury in the first game of the season and is not projected to return to the ice for another month.
  • Darren Helm (1987-) – Just like Quick, this forward was selected by the same team he’s played for ever since (Detroit) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, even though he was picked two rounds later. He was a rookie on the Wings‘ 2008 Stanley Cup team and contributed four points in that playoff run, including a goal and assist against Pittsburgh in the Finals.

Sometimes, a goal is all you need. That was the case for the Blackhawks last night, as they beat Boston 1-0 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With 1:26 remaining in regulation, First Star of the Game Marian Hossa (Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza) takes credit for the lone tally of the game. His wrister from the left faceoff zone beat Third Star Tuukka Rask to the near post to ensure the victory.

Second Star Scott Darling earned the victory by saving all 30 shots he faced, while Rask fell just short, saving all but one of the 22 pucks (95.5%) that entered his crease.

Chicago‘s win was the second-straight shutout in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands at 52-34-14 in favor of the hosts, who lead visitors by five points.

January 19 – Day 96 – Worth his Weight behind the bench? We’ll see…

It’s time to start taking our hockey-watching seriously, as there’s only eight days until the All-Star break. The first two pucks of the night drop at 7 p.m. (Dallas at the New York Islanders and Ottawa at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by the New York Rangers at Toronto. 8 p.m. marks the beginning of another pair of games (Washington at St. Louis [SN/TVAS] and Arizona at Minnesota), with Nashville at Calgary waiting an hour before getting underway. Colorado at Anaheim gets started at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Tampa Bay at San Jose (SN/SN1) – waiting 30 minutes before getting green-lit. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Dallas at New York: Welcome to the coaching game Doug Weight.
  • New York at Toronto: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but Michael Grabner also played for the Leafs last season.

It’s been a long time since we’ve featured either the Islanders or the Stars, so let’s head off to Brooklyn!

Unknown-2New York Islanders Logo

 

A long, long time ago, in a borough not too far from Brooklyn

Wait, we’ve got to set the mood…

There we go.

Anyways, Jack Capuano was called up to the big-time from New York‘s AHL club in Bridgeport – where he had held the same position since 2007 – to coach the Islanders on November 15, 2010.

To put things lightly, it was not the miraculous transition you read about in history books. After taking on a 4-10-3 club from Scott Gordon, the Islanders ended the season with a 30-39-13 record and in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The 2011-’12 season was better, as the Isles improved to 34-37-11, but Capuano’s teachings could not get them out of the Atlantic basement.

Playoff chances weren’t looking good for the Islanders during the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 season either. New York sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 18 games remaining, due in part to the Isles spoiling a seven-game home-stand by earning only three points.

Let’s give credit to Capuano for New York‘s spark  to end the season. They earned a point in the last 11 games to force themselves all the way into eighth place in the Conference and earn a playoff date in Pittsburgh. Although they would fall in six games, making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 was a big step forward for New York.

Capuano continued to build the club. Even though they didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2013-’14, New York got back into the postseason in 2015 and missed out on advancing to the Eastern Semifinals by only a goal, falling to Washington 2-1 in a deciding Game 7.

The Islanders finally earned that playoff series victory last year when they beat the Panthers in six games. It was their first postseason series victory since 1993.

Unfortunately, this season did not get off to a great start. The Isles currently have a 17-17-8 record and sit in last place in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Because of that, he was released on Tuesday, even though his record with the Isles is an impressive 227-192-64, given the team he started with six years ago.

In what is probably the most hilarious turn of events, Capuano was replaced this season by none other than Weight.

Why is that funny? Any good Islander fan can tell you who the captain of their club was when Capuano made his NHL coaching debut. Yes, that’s right: it’s none other than Weight.

Even more hilarious is that Weight is the assistant general manager of the Islanders. Even though he wasn’t the one making the final decisions, it’s partially his fault that Capuano struggled this season. Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Brian Strait were all allowed to walk in free agency this offseason, and Garth Snow and Weight only brought in Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd (currently injured), P.A. Parenteau (who they’ve since waived) and Dennis Seidenberg to fill the holes.

Martin: left wing. Nielsen: center. Okposo: right wing. All three forwards. Is it any surprise the Isles have struggled to score? Last season, those three players combined for 135 points, a total the Isles have struggled to replace. That is made evident by an offense that has managed only 119 goals, the 12th-fewest in the NHL.

Captain John Tavares has done all he can to try to save the Islanders, as his 32 points lead the team. In comparison to the three forwards lost, he has the best points total, leading Okposo by three. Tavares also has the club-lead in goals, with 16 to his credit, and once again he leads Okposo by three tallies.

The issue with the Islanders does not seem to be their primary or secondary scorer, but instead the tertiary Brock Nelson. Even though he’s the third-best forward on the squad this season, his nine goals among 23 points are not enough of a threat.

The Isles‘ power play has been a major point of concern, as they tie for third-worst with their 13.6% conversion rate. Nick Leddy joins Tavares in leading the club in that effort with eight power play points, but once again the captain has headed the charge in scoring with four man-advantage goals.

While not as bad as the power play, the penalty kill cannot be ignored as it yields goals on 20% of opposing power plays, which ties for ninth-worst. Calvin de Haan may spend only 1:39-per-game on the penalty kill (well below Thomas Hickey‘s 2:08), but he certainly makes an impact. His 20 shorthanded blocks are tops on the team.

Visiting the Barclays Center this evening are the 19-19-8 Stars, the fifth-best team in the Central Division, and 11th in the Western Conference. Dallas‘ issue this year is the same one they faced a season ago: goaltending. They’ve allowed 144 goals against, which ties for second-most in the NHL.

With four more starts to his credit, 9-12-4 Kari Lehtonen has been the man between the pipes more often than not this season for the Stars. But as his record indicates, things haven’t been going quite so swimmingly. He has a season .9 save percentage and 2.86 GAA, which is only (t)40th and (t)35th-best in the league among the 49 netminders with 13 or more appearances to their credit.

Even though they know their goalie has struggled, Dallas‘ defense has only offered average help. Led by Kris Russell‘s 115 shot blocks, the Stars have allowed 30.2 shots-per-game to reach Lehtonen’s crease, tying for 14th-most in the NHL.

Lehtonen continues to struggle on the penalty kill, leading Dallas to a second-worst 74% success rate. Even with Mark Giordano‘s impressive 32 shorthanded blocks, Lehtonen saves only 79% of opposing power play shots – the worst in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on include DallasTyler Seguin (44 points [eighth-most in the league] on 28 assists [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) and New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.925 save percentage [fifth-best in the league]).

The experts in the desert have marked New York a -105 favorite to win tonight’s contest. Given the fact that both the Islanders‘ offense and Dallas‘ goaltending are poor, it boils down to who wins the other end of the ice. Personally, I like the Stars‘ offense more than New York‘s defense, so I predict a closely contested upset this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Sylvain Cote (1966-) – The 11th-overall pick in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by Hartford, this defenseman played most of his 19-season career in Washington. He finished his career with a +39, but notched a +60 over his tenure with the Capitals.
  • Ian Laperriere (1974-) – This left wing was a seventh-round pick by St. Louis in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career in Los Angeles. The 2011 Masterton Trophy winner, he notched 336 points before being forced to retire with post-concussion syndrome.
  • Mike Komisarek (1982-) – Montréal selected this blueliner seventh-overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 11-season career. He was voted to the 2008 All-Star game during a 227 block, +9 campaign – the best season of his career.
  • Thomas Vanek (1984-) – The fifth-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo (still his longest tenured club), this left wing is playing his first season in Detroit. Although he’s in the 12th season of his career, he’s on track to have one of his best campaigns, averaging .55 assists per night (ties his 2012-’13 effort with the Sabres).

Thanks to Third Star Joe Pavelski‘s second-period insurance goal, the Sharks were able to knock-off bitter-rival Los Angeles 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Brent Burns (First Star of the Game Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson) opened the scoring early, burying his snap shot only 3:31 after taking to the ice. The Kings were quick to respond, scoring only 2:15 later on a Tanner Pearson (Derek Forbort and Second Star Dustin Brown) tip-in. The score remained tied until 4:18 remained in the first period when San Jose‘s Tommy Wingels (Michael Haley) scored his snapper to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

That lead doubled to two at the midway point of the frame when Pavelski (Joel Ward and Thornton) scored his wrister, but Los Angeles pulled back within a score off a Marian Gaborik (Kyle Clifford and Brown) wrister. That set the score at 3-2 going into the second intermission, which ultimately held to the end of the game.

Martin Jones earns the victory after saving 22-of-24 shots faced (91.7%), with Peter Budaj taking the loss, saving 24-of-27 (88.9%).

The Sharks‘ win was a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it pulled the visitors within five points of the hosts. Home teams have a 51-33-14 record in the series.