Tag Archives: White

March 17 – Day 149 – Killing two birds with one stone, even though there’s only one bird team here

In preparation for Saturday’s action there’s not too many games happening tonight – four, to be exact. Half of those contests drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Florida at the New York Rangers [NHLN/TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh [SN360]), followed two hours later by Dallas at Calgary. Finally, Buffalo visits Anaheim at 10 p.m. to complete the night’s festivities. All times eastern.

Unfortunately, the action this evening, in addition to not being high-volume, is not expected to be exceptionally noteworthy. Since it’s been a while since we’ve featured either Anaheim or Buffalo, let’s kill two birds with one stone and catch their matchup at the Honda Center.

 

This season has not treated the 28-31-12 Sabres how they would’ve liked. Many fans came into the campaign dreaming of making the playoffs, but with the club currently sitting in 14th-place in the Eastern Conference, it seems those dreams will be dashed for the sixth year in a row.

Much of the reason for that is an offense that has managed only 177 goals in 71 games, which ties for the seventh-worst rate in the league. Of course, much of that is due to Jack Eichel‘s lower body injury suffered in a practice only a day before Buffalo‘s season got underway. Even though he’s missed 22 games this year, he still leads the team in points with 48, but Buffalonians can only dream of what he could have done playing a full 82-game season.

Another players who’s missed considerable time but has still produced is Evander Kane. He’s had to sit out a dozen contests, but his 25 goals still top the squad.

Believe it or not, the season’s injury list actually continues. In total, the top four forwards (Eichel, Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and the currently injured Kyle Okposo) have all missed a combined 41 games. With Kane and O’Reilly both playing on the top line, it’s proven difficult for the Sabres to maintain consistency and build chemistry.

But when Buffalo fights through the injuries and manages to put a quality roster on the ice, it’s more than proven what it’s capable of. That’s no more apparent than when the Sabres take to the power play, as their 23.4% success rate is second-best in the league. Rasmus Ristolainen, coincidentally one of the big-names on the Sabres‘ roster that hasn’t missed a game yet this year, has been at the head of that attack with his 24 man-advantage points.

Ristolainen has made a hobby of setting up linemates, as most of those are assists. Instead, it’s Matt Moulson who has scored the most power play goals on the team, with 10 to his credit.

Unfortunately, special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away. As great as the Sabres have been on the power play, they’ve been equally terrible on the penalty kill. Buffalo defends only 76.4% of its penalties, the second-worst rate in the league even though Josh Gorges has done all he can with his 34 shorthanded shot blocks (11th-most in the NHL).

Even with that effort, 19-22-8 Robin Lehner has still faced 255 shots against when his club is shorthanded, the third-most in the league. He saves a more-than-respectable .886 of those, but has not been rewarded with improved defensive play in front of him. Until Buffalo can improve on that defensive effort, it will not be a true Cup-contender. We will have to wait and see what Tim Murray has planned for the offseason.

Hosting the Sabres this evening are the 37-23-10 Ducks, winners of their past two games that currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division. Defense is the name of the game in Anaheim, as the Ducks have allowed only 173 goals against this season, which ties for the sixth-lowest total in the league.

At the core of that defense is 23-16-8 John Gibson, Anaheim‘s first-year starter. He’s done admirably in his new position, but recently suffered a lower body injury. In his stead, the Ducks are expected to start 14-7-2 Jonathan Bernier, whose .913 season save percentage and 2.62 GAA rank 29th-best in the league among the 60 netminders with at least a dozen appearances.

Randy Carlyle and Bob Murray prescribe to a decent philosophy: an under-worked good goalie becomes a great goaltender. That’s where Cam Fowler‘s group comes into play. Thanks in part to Fowler’s team-leading 118 shot blocks, the Ducks allow only 29.6 shots to reach Gibson’s (now Bernier’s) crease per game, the ninth-lowest average in the league.

The solid defensive effort continues when Anaheim is forced to defend a penalty. 85.1% of the time the Ducks are forced into a shorthanded situation, they do not yield a goal, which ties for the third-best rate in the NHL. Just like he is at even-strength, Fowler is very responsible for the Ducks‘ penalty kill success as he has a team-leading 24 shorthanded blocks.

With only 24 days remaining on the NHL calendar for the regular season, it’s not a surprise that this is the last time the Ducks and Sabres will meet this year. The Ducks visited Buffalo on February 9 and exploded for a 5-2 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (44 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Buffalo‘s Ristolainen (38 assists and 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

A -210 line is never a good sign for the road team, and it’s definitely discouraging me from picking against the Ducks. Not only are they on The Pond, where they’ve won all but 11 of their contests, but they also have a defense that can cover for an injured goaltender (Exhibits A and B: the last two games). Anaheim should have another two points after tonight’s game is complete.

Hockey Birthday

  • Craig Ramsay (1951-) – This longtime Sabres left wing saved his best for the last season of his career. Selected by Buffalo 19th-overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, he retired immediately after winning the 1985 Frank J. Selke Trophy.
  • Andrew Ference (1979-) – Pittsburgh may have selected this defenseman in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s spent most of his career with Boston. He was a member of the Bruins‘ 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team, and also earned the 2014 King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
  • Ryan Parent (1987-) – It simply never panned out for this defenseman, the 18th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Nashville. He played 106 career games in the league – 102 with Philadelphia – and only had three points to show for it.
  • Bobby Ryan (1987-) – Anaheim selected this left wing second-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent the first six years of his career. Since 2013, he’s called Ottawa home, where he’s registered 182 points.
  • Ryan White (1988-) – This center was selected 66th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, and that’s where he’s spent a majority of his eight-year career. That being said, he currently plays for the Wild after being traded from the Coyotes at this season’s deadline.

If I had to guess, the best way to break the resolve of a team is by by scoring four unanswered goals in a period. The Maple Leafs did just that to best Tampa Bay with a five-goal shutout in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Since Third Star of the Game Roman Polak (Tyler Bozak) was the first Leaf to score a goal – a slap shot 9:19 into the game – he gets to take credit for the game-winning tally. It’s a special statistic for a defenseman, as this is only the sixth of his 11-year career, and his first of the season.

Where Toronto truly won the game was in the second period. In the span of 13:17, Second Star Morgan Rielly (Nazem Kadri and Alexey Marchenko), Matt Martin (Matt Hunwick and Nikita Soshnikov), Connor Brown (Leo Komarov and William Nylander) and James van Riemsdyk (Rielly and Mitch Marner) all scored to set the score at the 5-0 final.

Frederik Andersen earned his First Star award in the final 40 minutes of the game. The Lightning fired a total of 26 shots in the second and third frames, but Andersen did not let a single one by to earn his fourth shutout of the season.

In all, Andersen saved all 33 shots he faced for the victory, while Andrei Vasilevskiy takes the loss after saving 11-of-15 (73.3%) shots faced. He was replaced following Brown’s power play goal (the score read 4-0 then) by Peter Budaj, who saved five-of-six (83.3%) for no decision.

For two days in a row now, the 76-53-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have scored five goals en route to a victory. Those offensive explosions has given the visitors in the series a three-point advantage on the hosts.

December 12 – Day 61 – Not just a rivalry these days

Bad news: You had to go back to work today.

Good news: There’s hockey on tonight!

Don’t get too excited though, there’s only two games. The action starts at 7 p.m. when Arizona visits Pittsburgh (TVAS), followed half an hour later by Boston at Montréal (NHLN/RDS/SN). Both times eastern.

As sexy as the CoyotesPenguins matchup is, I think we all know we have to turn our attention to The Metropolis.

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The 15-12-2 Bruins come to Montréal in command of third place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve been able to find that success by allowing only 69 goals so far this season, tying for the seventh-fewest in the NHL.

Every good defense starts with a good goalie, and the Bruins are no different. 14-5-2 Tuukka Rask has earned his impressive record on a .93 save percentage and 1.85 GAA, the eighth and fifth-best rates in the league, respectively, among goaltenders with 11 or more appearances.

Although his numbers have been impressive, Rask doesn’t get all the credit. He faces only 27 shots-per-game, the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Rookie Brandon Carlo and Captain Zdeno Chara have headed that charge with their 46 and 44 blocks, respectively. Last season, the Bruins allowed 30.4 shots per game to tie for 11th-most, and Rask did not play to the standard we’ve come to expect.

In other words, goalies: be thankful for your bluelines!

Not surprisingly, Boston‘s penalty kill has also been very strong, refusing 87.2% of opposing power plays. The rookie has been just as important when a man down as he is at even-strength, notching a club-high 15 shorthanded blocks.

Where the Bruins need to improve is on their own power play, where they find the back of the net only 13.9% of the time. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are the three man-advantage kings, each with five power play points on their season resume, but Pastrnak has been the most impressive. He has four extra man goals.

Third in the division is good, but first is better – especially when it coincides with first in the league. That’s the position the 19-6-3 Canadiens find themselves in, and you won’t find any complainers in that dressing room. Just like Boston, the Habs have found much of their success by keeping the opposition off the board.

The man between the pipes more often than not for the Canadiens has been 16-3-1 Carey Price, who’s .94 save percentage and 1.79 GAA are both the fourth-best efforts in the NHL among goalies with 10 or more appearances.

So both teams keep their opponents from scoring? What makes them different? We’ve already determined that Boston uses an excellent combination of goalie and defense. On the other hand, Montréal prefers to lean hard on Price.

The Habs defense has allowed 30.7 shots to reach Price per night, the 13th-most in the NHL. What’s alarming is to think if they’d not made the trade with Nashville for Shea Weber, who leads his new club with 60 blocked shots.

In conclusion: Price>Rask this season, but Boston‘s defense>Montréal‘s.

Fortunately for Montréal, their offense – specifically the power play – is able to cover up for the lack of defense. Even with Weber’s 10 power play points – including a club-leading seven power play goals – the Canadiens have converted 21.6% of their man-advantages, the eighth-best effort in the league.

These teams last met a little under a month ago on this surface, and the Habs won 3-2. That victory improved Montréal‘s record to 2-0 against the Bruins on the season.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Pastrnak (18 goals [second-most in the NHL] for a +15 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Rask (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 14 wins [tied for third-most in the league] on a 1.85 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] and a .93 save percentage [ninth-best in the league]) & Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+13 [10th-best in the NHL]), Price (16 wins [tied for most in the league] on a 1.79 GAA and a .94 save percentage [both fourth-best in the NHL], plus two shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Weber (+18 [second-best in the NHL]).

The consensus in Vegas is that Montréal is a -150 favorite to win tonight’s game. They’re hard to pick against, given that they’ve already won the first two meetings with their most hated rivals and they have home ice. I like the Habs to win tonight, but it should be a well-contested contest.

Hockey Birthday

  • Billy Smith (1950-) – Who knew goaltenders could be strikers? OK, maybe that’s a slight over-exaggeration, but this longtime Islander was the first netminder to bury a goal. Oh yeah, he also won four Stanley Cups.
  • Colin White (1977-) – Another multi-Cup winner, this defenseman was the 49th-overall selection in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey. He played 743 games over 11 seasons with the Devils, plus a 54-game stint in San Jose.

With two goals in the third period, Edmonton was able to defend home ice against the visiting Jets in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, winning 3-2.

The lone tally of the first period belonged to the Jets. With 5:10 remaining in the opening frame, Third Star of the Game Mathieu Perreault (Bryan Little and Jacob Trouba) buried a wrister to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead.

Second Star Oscar Klefbom (Tyler Pitlick and Patrick Maroon) and the Oilers struck back only 1:53 after returning to the ice with a snap shot, but the tied game lasted only 10:07 before Chris Thorburn (Marko Dano) scored a snapper of his own to reclaim a 2-1 lead for Winnipeg.

Edmonton once again returned from intermission with a vengeance, as First Star Mark Letestu (Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic) buried a power play snap shot to once again tie the game at two-all. But this time, Winnipeg did not have an answer. They could not muster another tally. Instead, it was Letestu who scored the winning goal, earning Edmonton second place in the Pacific Division for the next couple days.

Cam Talbot earns the come-from-behind victory after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (93.5%), while Connor Hellebuyck takes the loss, saving 27-of-30 (90%).

The home teams did it! They won all of this week’s DtFR Game of the Days. That streak improves their record to 36-19-8, which is 15 points better than the roadies.

Washington at Philadelphia – Game 3 – Ovi’s two goal night pulls the Caps within a win of the Eastern Semis

Washington Capitals LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

 

 

The environment for this game was incredible.  All of Philadelphia seemed to be packed into the Wells Fargo Center, first to honor the late Ed Snider and then to try to propel their team to begin staging a comeback.  While the Flyers were the first team to score this evening, it was the Capitals who won 6-1.

Philly looked like they might try to cause some trouble in this series, as Michael Raffl scored at the 57 second mark, assisted by Brandon Manning and Sam Gagner, to give the Flyers an early lead.  Marcus Johansson and the Capitals leveled 3:46 later on the power play, assisted by First Star of the Game John Carlson and Third Star Nicklas Backstrom.

The Capitals took a lead they would not yield with Second Star Alex Ovechkin’s first goal of the night, a snapper at the 8:50 mark of the second period.  He was assisted by Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

It was the second period when things really started going south for the trailing home team.  Although they were only down a goal, there was a noticeable difference in Philadelphia‘s approach to the game.  Things peaked at when 8:01 remained in the period, when Ryan White absolutely smashed Brooks Orpik into the boards.  Orpik did not return to his skates by his own power and had to be helped off the ice, and did not return from the dressing room.  I am no doctor, but his eyes did not look clear at all, and given Orpik’s history of concussions, things may not be looking good for a quick return.

Before the night was through, Philadelphia committed a whopping 53 minutes of penalties.  In fact, all four of the third period goals were a result of at least a one-man advantage, but many times the Flyers had a crammed penalty box, leaving Washington with 5-on-3 situations.

1:58 into the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov cashed in on a Brayden Schenn slashing penalty on Tom Wilson at the end of the second period, as his wrister, assisted by Justin Williams and Braden Holtby, set the score at 3-1.  5:39 later, Carlson extended the Caps‘ lead with power play slap shot that found the back of Steve Mason’s net, assisted by Ovechkin and and Williams.  Washington struck again with 5:02 remaining in the game when Ovechkin found the net for the second time of the night with a slap shot from outside the left face-off circle, assisted by Carlson and Oshie.  Jay Beagle closed the scoring line for the Capitals with 1:40 remaining with his second goal of the series, as his wrister assisted by Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov set the score at the 6-1 final.

Holtby earns the win after saving 31 of 32 shots faced (96.9%), while Mason takes the loss, saving 21 of 27 (77.8%).

Washington will attempt to complete the series sweep Wednesday at 7 p.m. eastern.  That contest can be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.