Tag Archives: William Nylander

January 18 – Day 103 – The House that Lindros Built

As usual, Thursday is the best day of the work week for hockey, as we have 10 games on the schedule.

As it usually does, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. this evening with four tilts (Washington at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders [SN360], Toronto at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Dallas at Columbus), trailed half an hour later by another trio (Buffalo at the New York Rangers [NBCSN], St. Louis at Ottawa [RDS] and Vegas at Tampa Bay). Arizona at Nashville is the next fixture up at 8 p.m., followed an hour later by San Jose at Colorado and tonight’s nightcap – Pittsburgh at Los Angeles (NBCSN/SN360) – at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.

Teams on the bye: Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Even with eight teams on the bye, there’s still more than a few games on the schedule today that deserve attention. However, all pale to today’s action at… Wells Fargo Center?

 

G Bernie Parent‘s number 1. D Mark Howe‘s 2. D Barry Ashbee, LW Bill Barber and C Bobby Clarke‘s numbers – 4, 7 and 16, respectively – have all been honored too.

And tonight, the Flyers add C Eric Lindros‘ number 88 to the list of retired numbers now hanging in their arena’s rafters.

Only the best get away with controlling their fate before even signing their first contract, so Lindros was building his resume before even taking to the NHL ice. He was drafted by the Québec Nordiques in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, but insisted that he would never play for the Northmen.

Once Nordiques’ owner Marcel Aubut finally got the message after Lindros continued to play for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL and joined Team Canada for the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in France, the centerman was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for four players, the rights to C Peter Forsberg, a first-round pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft and $15 million.

Adding a bit of levity to the situation, G Ron Hextall – the Flyers’ current general manager – was one of the players traded to Québec for Lindros… #awkward.

Anyways, Lindros was an incredible rookie, posting 41-34-75 totals in 61 games played to finish fourth in 1993 Calder Trophy voting behind RW Teemu Selanne, C Joe Juneau and G Felix Potvin. Lindros also placed ninth in Hart Trophy voting – an award he eventually won in 1995 alongside the Pearson Trophy following a 29-41-70 46-game season.

In terms of total production, Lindros reached his ultimate form during the 1995-’96. In 73 games played, The Big E scored 47 goals en route to 155 points – both career highs. It was Year 3 of four of Lindros averaging 1.5 points per game.

Unfortunately, the closest Lindros came to getting back to that production was in 1998-’99 when he posted 1.31 points per game over 71 contests. Beyond the first five seasons of his career, Lindros’ career was an almost constant downhill slide due to the multiple serious injuries he sustained. Among other injuries, four concussions, a collapsed lung and a torn ligament in his wrist led to Lindros retiring following the 2007 season.

Those setbacks – in addition to a bad relationship with General Manager Bobby Clarke – led to his rights being traded to the Rangers (Lindros wanted to be traded to Toronto, but Clarke wouldn’t complete the deal. Lindros protested and did not sign a two-way contract for the 2000-’01 season, leaving him on the couch.) before the 2001-’02 season. Lindros would play three seasons with the Rangers, the 2005-’06 campaign with Toronto and 49 games during the 2006-’07 season with Dallas before retiring.

However, that tumultuous end to his career doesn’t blemish what he achieved while playing in Philadelphia, posting one of the best opening five seasons of a career. According to his Wikipedia page, Lindros needed the fourth-fewest games to reach the 300 (210 games) and 400 (277) point plateaus, the fifth-fewest to reach 500 points (352) and the sixth-fewest to reach 600 points (429).

For fans of teams that were regularly downed by the Flyers during Lindros’ tenure, it’s scary to think about that team with an uninjured Big E for more than his eight-year tenure.

It may be hard to believe considering the Flyers are currently in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, but 20-16-8 Philadelphia is actually rolling lately. Before Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Madison Square Garden, Philly had won four-straight contests.

When the Flyers are winning (like they are right now), the offense is the biggest driver in their success. Even adding in Tuesday’s loss, Philadelphia has managed a second-best 4.4 goals per game since January 4.

Five players are averaging at least a point-per-game to propel this run, but no player has been better over Philly’s last five games than C Sean Couturier. He’s posted incredible 7-2-9 totals since January 4 (25-20-45 overall) to lead the NHL in goals in that time. Of course, someone has to set him up for those goals, and that’s usually been linemate F Claude Giroux (1-7-8 totals during this run, team-leading 14-40-54 overall), who’s provided the primary assist on three of Couturier’s seven most-recent tallies.

Of course, by focusing only on those two, Toronto runs the risk of ignoring RW Jakub Voracek. That would be extremely unwise, as Voracek’s 45 assists on the season (he has 8-45-53 totals overall) are the best in the NHL. In fact, Couturier, Giroux and Voracek all rank in the top 10 of the NHL in at least one statistic, including the Captain’s second-most assists, which explains why Vorcek has been assigned to the second line to promote more offense with F Valtteri Filppula and W Michael Raffl.

While the 25-17-4 Maple Leafs – who are in third place in the Atlantic Division – are also riding a streak of earning points in four of their last five games, it hasn’t been anywhere near as pleasant an experience. With the exception of last Wednesday’s 4-3 regulation loss against the Senators, all four of the remaining games have required extra time, and that pill is made even harder to swallow by Toronto winning only two of those – both in the shootout.

To put it lightly, Toronto is doing the bare minimum right now as far as the standings are concerned. The same could be said for its offense, which has averaged only two goals-per-game over its last five outings – the (t)third-worst mark since January 5.

But this offensive drought has nothing do with effort – in fact, quite the opposite. 16 of the 19 skaters the Maple Leafs have employed since January 5 have at least one point to their credit, and both C Tyler Bozak and F William Nylander have posted 1-3-4 totals.

I would argue the biggest problem is C Auston Matthews is having just a little slump. Though he has scored two goals in his last five games, he’s currently riding a three-game goalless skid. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but the Leafs also haven’t won a game during that skid.

I think not.

Tonight’s game completes the three-game series between the Flyers and Leafs, and if history is any indicator, this tilt will end with a 4-2 score just like the previous two matchups. Led by Jakub Voracek, the Flyers invaded Toronto on October 28, and then matched that effort on December 12 in a home contest dominated by Giroux.

Considering the positive mojo the Flyers have in their back pockets, the excitement around the Lindros number retirement ceremony and Matthews’ struggles, it’s hard to pick against the hosts this evening.


Habs-turned-Bruins-turned-Habs Head Coach Claude Julien didn’t get the result he wanted in his first return to TD Garden, as the Boston Bruins beat his Montréal Canadiens 4-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though it wasn’t the best of showings by Montréal, it did manage to take an early lead in the contest courtesy of D Jakub Jerabek‘s (W Charles Hudon and F Paul Byron) first career goal. He struck his tip-in 31 seconds into the game. However, that lead would only last 6:19 before RW David Pastrnak (First Star of the Game C Patrice Bergeron and Second Star LW Brad Marchand) leveled the game with a wrist shot.

That 1-1 tie held until the 2:37 mark of the second period. That’s when F Ryan Spooner (C David Krejci and LW Jake DeBrusk) got lucky and banked a centering pass to either DeBrusk or D Matt Grzelcyk through G Carey Price‘s crease off F Jonathan Drouin‘s right skate and into the back of the net. His pass-turned-backhanded shot proved to be the game-winning marker, his third such goal of the season.

Boston tacked on two insurance tallies in the third period, one a power play wrister by Marchand (Bergeron and D Torey Krug) 3:40 into the frame and another a wrister by Krejci (F David Backes) into an empty net with 3:14 remaining in the contest.

Third Star G Tuukka Rask saved 21-of-22 shots faced (.955 save percentage) in the victory, leaving Price – who saved 28-of-31 (.903) – with the loss.

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day are starting to resume command of the series. The 57-34-12 hosts have won three of the past four contests and extended their lead over the visitors to 22 points.

December 6 – Day 63 – This one might get ugly

Another Wednesday, another day to sell any random matchup as a rivalry when it almost certainly isn’t worthy of such designation.

Such is life in the world of sports broadcasting, I suppose.

Today’s slate of action features four games, starting with Calgary at Toronto (SN/TVAS) at 7:30 p.m. and Chicago at Washington (NBCSN) at 8 p.m. In a similar setup, Philadelphia at Edmonton (SN1) is scheduled to drop the puck at 9:30 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Ottawa at Anaheim (RDS) – following suit half an hour later. All times Eastern.

Though C Nate Thompson is making his first return to The Pond after calling it home for three seasons, I’m much more attracted to the contest involving the other team from Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

No, it’s no rivalry like the one between Chicago and Washington (I mean, they are obviously warring over who wears red better), but this could be a good game nonetheless.

If nothing else, it should be the most entertaining, as the 17-10-1 Maple Leafs are always capable of putting on a good show with their third-ranked offense that averages 3.5 goals-per-game.

It’s no surprise who spearheads the Leafs’ attack, as all C Auston Matthews has done this season is improve on his Calder Trophy-winning 40-29-69 effort from a year ago. Having already earned team-leading 13-13-26 marks through 24 games played this year, he’s on pace for an incredible 84 points this season.

For those wondering, F Patrick Kane followed up his Calder-winning season with 25-45-70 totals in 80 games played. If you that think Kane is a solid player (hint: that should be all of us), Matthews has a chance to make Showtime simply an opening act.

While Matthews’ increased goal production certainly merits praise (his goals-per-game is up to .54 this season from last year’s .49), I’m actually most impressed with how he’s settled into his role as a top-line center. I often got the impression from Matthews that he felt he was the only one on Toronto’s roster capable of scoring goals (which, assuming he’d been watching the Leafs while he was in Switzerland, wasn’t exactly a misguided conclusion), which has made apparent by his four-goal NHL debut.

In a real test for Matthews, Head Coach Mike Babcock took the training wheels off Saturday by moving F William Nylander – himself a tremendous talent with 5-15-20 totals – to the third line to fill in for C Tyler Bozak while he was sick. As a result, Matthews and linemates RW Connor Brown (8-5-13) and F Zach Hyman (5-9-14) did not find the scorecard in Toronto’s 2-1 loss in Vancouver.

Word on the street is Bozak will be ready to go this evening, but I wouldn’t put it past Babcock to continue to play with his lines while the Leafs are in no danger of falling out of playoff position.

Tonight’s game might be a tough one for the 14-12-1 Flames, because even though they’re currently only one point outside of the Western Conference playoffs, they’ve made a bad habit of allowing 3.25 goals-per-game, the eighth-most in the NHL.

Considering last campaign’s starter G Brian Elliott has managed only a .908 save percentage this season in Philadelphia, I suppose Flames General Manager Brad Treliving did make an upgrade by trading for 12-9-1 G Mike Smith. Unfortunately, Smith’s .916 season save percentage and 2.79 GAA, which rank seventh- and fifth-worst, respectively, among goalies with at least 20 starts, has not been enough to keep the Flames in the playoff position they earned last year.

Of course, goaltending is a tough job when you’re being pelted with 31.71 shots-per-start like Smith has. Overall, the Flames defense has allowed the 10th-most shots to reach their goaltender, averaging 32.37 per game.

To put it simply, this team is not committed to playing defensive hockey. Not only are their 354 blocks the fewest in the Western Conference and third-fewest in the league, but they’ve also thrown the fewest blocks at 437, 27 less than Carolina’s second-worst effort. It is fortunate that C Mikael Backlund has managed a league-leading 34 takeaways, or things might be even worse for Calgary.

Oh wait, it can get worse. Backlund was sick yesterday and missed practice. Unless D Mark Giordano can assume his ultimate form and block more than his already team-leading 2.2 shots-per-game, this game has a really good chance of getting ugly for the Flames.


The New Jersey Devils are now the top team in the Metropolitan Division after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Nationwide Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Jersey never trailed in this game, due in large part to C Travis Zajac‘s (RW Stefan Noesen and F Marcus Johansson) first goal of the season, a backhanded shot 4:24 into the contest. The first period was also when the Blue Jackets got on the board, courtesy of a F Nick Foligno (RW Oliver Bjorkstrand and D Seth Jones) wrist shot with 6:14 remaining in the frame.

After that, this game belonged to the Devils, starting with Third Star of the Game F Taylor Hall‘s (Second Star C Nico Hischier and W Jesper Bratt) game-winning tip-in 4:47 into the second period. He was the benefactor of his own hard work, as it was Hall that won the scrum in his own defensive zone to get the puck to Hischier, who was off to the races after corralling the play. Once the rookie reached the right face-off dot, he pulled up and drew an additional defender before centering a pass to Hall, who tapped a one-timer past G Sergei Bobrovsky‘s blocker.

Noesen (LW Miles Wood and Hischier) also made sure to end the period with a bang, burying a wrister with 46 seconds remaining before the second intermission.

Bratt (Hall) tacked on the final insurance goal with 8:54 remaining in regulation with a tip-in.

First Star Cory Schneider earned the victory after saving 41-of-42 shots faced (.976 save percentage), leaving the loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 32-of-36 (.889).

December’s pattern of giving in the DtFR Game of the Day series continues, as hosts and visitors continue to exchange victories every other day. With last night being the road teams’ turn, they’ve now pulled back within 14 points of the home sides.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-2018 Season Preview

UnknownToronto Maple Leafs

40-27-15, 95 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Washington

Additions: D Ron Hainsey, D Vincent LoVerde, F Patrick Marleau, F Dominic Moore, F Chris Mueller

Subtractions: G Antoine Bibeau (signed with SJ), F Brian Boyle (signed with NJ), D Andrew Campbell (signed with ARI), F Seth Griffith (signed with BUF), F Teemu Hartikainen (signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL), D Matt Hunwick (signed with PIT), F Sergey Kalinin (signed with SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), F Brooks Laich (signed a PTO with LA), D Steve Oleksy (signed with ANA), D Stephane Robidas (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Milan Michalek, D Roman Polak

Offseason Analysis: The Kids Revival Era in Toronto led to a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance for the first time since 2013 and sooner than anyone could have ever expected last October. Unfortunately, all good runs must come to an end and the youthful Leafs were unable to defeat the Second Round pros (the Washington Capitals) in a back-and-forth six-game battle in the First Round.

Fear not, Toronto, your team will be just fine.

Maple Leafs general manager, Lou Lamoriello, hasn’t had much to do this offseason. Lamoriello’s additions of Ron Hainsey, Patrick Marleau and Dominic Moore bring veteran leadership of the highest quality to the locker room full of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander‘s scoring capabilities (and that’s ignoring the fact that James van Riemsdyk exists altogether).

Hainsey, 36, is in search of his second Stanley Cup after finally appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the 2017 champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As Connor Carrick, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev delve into the prime of their careers, Hainsey’s guidance on the blue line will balance the workload and make it easier for Toronto’s head coach, Mike Babcock, to make crucial decisions regarding defensive pairings and special teams.

While Lamoriello landed star playmaker, Patrick Marleau, to transform the rest of the top-9 forwards into a shot attempts for, offense generating machine, the skilled forward comes in past the plateau of his prime at 37-years-old and down significantly from his consistent 70-plus point seasons in scoring.

Although his 27-19-46 totals in all 82 games last season with the San Jose Sharks were impressive for his age, he’s likely to see less goal scoring and more emphasis than ever before on passing the puck to linemates far faster than him on the ice.

If Toronto wins the Cup in the next year or two, there’s a good chance his 3-year, $18.750 million contract ($6.250 million cap hit) will be forgiven given his age and the cap overage that the Maple Leafs are currently facing (they’re about $4.600 million over the $75 million salary cap ceiling).

In perhaps the best signing of adding a more veteran punch to the roster, Dominic Moore’s 1-year, $1.000 million contract should pay off in spades for the Maple Leafs.

Moore bounced back from a 15-point season (six goals, nine assists) in 80 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-2016 with a 25-point year (11 goals, 14 assists) in all 82 games with the Boston Bruins last season. His power play specialty alone bolster’s Toronto’s firing power on the man advantage, let alone the fact that he’s a top-notch bottom-six center as a 37-year-old in search for his first Stanley Cup.

A Cup win would cap off a happy homecoming for the native of Thornhill, Ontario.

Any other team that adds three players over the age of 35 in one offseason would be considered insane, yet here we are praising Toronto for finding the right guys, making the right deals (well, two out of three ain’t bad) and improving their team while only losing NHL caliber talents such in Seth Griffith (okay, maybe a fourth liner/top-6 AHLer), Matt Hunwick (signed with Pittsburgh, which, good for him) and Brooks Laich (had been buried in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and currently looking for a revival on a PTO with Los Angeles).

Okay, fine, not to overlook the loss of Brian Boyle to New Jersey via free agency, but Boyle’s 25 points in scoring last season, split between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto in 76 games combined was the same offensive output as Moore, minus the face-off winning abilities and special teams impact.

In fact, Boyle notched 22 of his 25 points on the season with Tampa in 48 games prior to being traded to Toronto two days before the trade deadline. Chemistry and sample size aside, Moore is a better replacement for Boyle’s inept scoring prowess (three points in 21 games with Toronto).

To summarize, Lamoriello didn’t have to do anything to an already stacked team, but he added without subtracting anyway. Oh yeah, and the Leafs will totally finish 2nd or 3rd in the Atlantic this season. Maybe 1st.

Offseason Grade: B+

Patrick Marleau shouldn’t be getting more than a two-year contract at this point, but the Maple Leafs will own up to paying more than they’d probably like to because of the over-35-years-old compliance with the CBA. Speaking of the CBA, the league still needs to figure out that whole “over the salary cap limit, while also probably going to utilize the LTIR on at least one player (namely Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton) a la the Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks situation with Marian Hossa before the season begins” thing.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #70- 2017-2018 Atlantic Division Preview

The Original Trio gets carried away talking about the Vegas Golden Knights masterplan for ruining everything. Additionally, Nick, Colby and Connor discuss the recent signings and NHL headlines, as well as what to do with remaining unsigned RFAs and a 2017-2018 Atlantic Division preview that’s full of the hottest takes in the land.

As is now tradition, find the latest episode here on our Libsyn page.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 23

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins – Game 6

By: Nick Lanciani

The Ottawa Senators came back in Game 6 to eliminate the Boston Bruins from 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff competition with a 3-2 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Sunday. Clarke MacArthur had the game-winning power play goal to end the series.

Third Star of the game and Senator’s goaltender, Craig Anderson, made 28 saves on 30 shots faced for a .933 save percentage in the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.

After killing off three consecutive delay of game penalties for sending the puck over the glass, the Bruins had their first power play opportunity of the afternoon after Ottawa forward, Mark Stone, tripped Sean Kuraly as he was exiting the defensive zone.

On the ensuing power play, Brad Marchand faked a shot and slid a pass over to Drew Stafford (2) who went high with a slap shot, beating Anderson on the blocker side, to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 18:13 of the 1st period. Marchand (2) and Charlie McAvoy (3) recorded the assists on Stafford’s goal.

In an incredible display of goaltending, Rask denied Stone on a breakaway and follow up shot with about 15 seconds left in the period after David Pastrnak failed to connect on a pass to a mid-line change Bruins defense.

McAvoy was sent to the box early in the 2nd period for tripping Senators forward, Tommy Wingels in a manner similar to how Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman, injured Bruins forward, David Krejci in Game 5 with a knee-on-knee collision. Wideman’s play was not penalized, unlike McAvoy’s.

While on the power play, Bobby Ryan (4) tied the game, 1-1, 3:26 into the 2nd period on a redirected slap shot from Derick Brassard. Brassard (5) and Erik Karlsson (6) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Ryan’s power play goal.

Past the halfway mark in the 2nd period, Kyle Turris (1) received a pass from Ryan Dzingel and unleashed an absolute laser of a wrist shot that found the back of the net. Dzingel (1) had the only assist on Turris’s goal, which made it 2-1 Ottawa.

Trailing 2-1 early in the 3rd period, Boston caught Ottawa in a slow line change, which resulted in a quick rush from Colin Miller to Marchand, who fired a shot at Anderson, producing a rebound. Patrice Bergeron (2) was on the doorstep and scored on the rebound from the left side of the crease, having tapped the trickling puck into the twine while Anderson sprawled to recover.

Marchand (3) and Miller (1) were given the helpers on the play and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

For the fourth time in the series, overtime was necessary to determine a game winner.

Pastrnak was sent to the box for tying up MacArthur on a Senators rush with 14:06 to go in the overtime period.

MacArthur (2) ended the series on the ensuing power play, scoring Ottawa’s second power play goal of the afternoon at 6:30 of overtime. Ryan (3) and Brassard (6) notched the assists on the game winning goal.

Sunday’s game marked the first time in Senators franchise history that they were involved in four overtime games in a playoff series. Additionally, all six games in the series were decided by one goal.

Per the NHL’s PR department, 17 out of 41 First Round games (41.5%) have required overtime in this year’s postseason, which ties the record for an opening round. In 2013, 17 out of 47 games (36.2%) required overtime in the Conference Quarterfinals.

Of note, Ottawa had three shots on goal in the 3rd period, while Boston recorded 12 shots on net in the last twenty minutes of regulation. In overtime, the Senators had six shots on goal, while the Bruins failed to record a shot on net.

The Senators advance to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the New York Rangers at the Canadian Tire Centre in Games 1 and 2, as Ottawa will have home ice in the series.

The first contest of the series will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. American viewers can watch the game on CNBC, while Canadian residents will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

 

Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – Game 6

By: Connor Keith

On the backs of Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson, the Capitals beat in overtime Toronto 2-1 at the Air Canada Centre Sunday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third-straight year.

Only 6:31 of extra time was required before Washington made its move. The play started in the far face-off circle in front of Frederik Andersen. Evgeny Kuznetsov won the scrum by kicking the puck back to John Carlson at the far point. The defenseman shoved the puck down the far boards to Justin Williams, who fired a shot a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle. That attempt never reached the waiting netminder because it was intercepted by Johansson, who redirected the puck beyond his reach to the near post.

It’s only fitting this contest went to overtime, as all but Game 4 of this series required post-regulation hockey to determine a winner. In fact, overtime has been a theme throughout the 2017 playoffs so far. In addition to being the first time the Caps played five overtime games in a single playoff series, this was the 18th match to require extra time – an NHL record for a single round.

This game was a true goaltending treat. No matter how hard each offense tried, it simply could not register a goal. In all, the Capitals fired 36 shots at Andersen (94.4%) and Toronto 37 at Holtby (97.4%) over the course of the game, but they both answered the bell on all but three combined times.

Both regulation tallies were struck in the third period. The scoreless draw survived 47:45 before being snapped by Auston Matthews (Morgan Rielly and Zach Hyman) with a wrist shot from the slot. The Maple Leafs didn’t get to celebrate their lead long though, as Johansson (Lars Eller and Brooks Orpik) buried a wrister of his own only 5:06 later to level the knot at one-all and force the eventual overtime.

Much of the reason neither club could find a goal for so long was due to the very disciplined play by both sides.  Only five penalties were recorded in the entire game to yield what proved to be effectively one power play – an opportunity for Washington due to William Nylander holding Nicklas Backstrom.

Technically, the Leafs did earn a man-advantage in the first period when Johansson was caught holding Nylander, but Tyler Bozak‘s hi-stick against Carlson negated that power play only 22 seconds into the opportunity.

Nazem Kadri and T.J. Oshie were sent to the box simultaneously for roughing with 47 seconds remaining in regulation for the final two infractions.

With their victory, the Capitals will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center for Games 1 and 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. It will be their second-straight meeting in the second round and their fourth since the turn of the millennium.

Game 1 drops the puck at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. Residents of the United States can watch the game on NBCSN, while interested Canadians will be serviced by both SN and TVAS.

This will be the 10th time the Capitals and Penguins have squared off in the postseason, but it’s been a lopsided affair in the past. Pittsburgh has won all but one of the previous series and has advanced to the next round six straight times at the Caps’ expense. Washington’s only time besting the Pens was in the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, winning four games to two, before falling in the conference semifinals to the New York Rangers, the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round- April 21

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

UnknownWashington Capitals Logo

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 5

By: Connor Keith

First Star of the Game Justin Williams proved he’s more than Mr. Game 7 by burying a wrist shot only 1:04 into overtime to lead Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at the Verizon Center, which pulls it within a win of a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Semifinals.

The play started with a face-off in the Capitals’ defensive zone. Few were better in this game at the dot than Jay Beagle, and he proved that by winning what proved to be the final scrum of the contest. Matt Niskanen ended up with the puck and advanced it to the red line before dumping it into the Caps’ attacking third. Marcus Johansson was the first reach the puck behind Third Star Frederik Andersen’s net and he immediately passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov between the near face-off circle and the goal line. The Russian one-touched a centering pass for a crashing Williams, who slammed home his shot from the deep slot between Andersen’s wickets.

As evidenced by the score, this was a very defensive matchup following Wednesday’s 5-4 thrilling Game 4. Second Star Braden Holtby faced only 25 shots and saved 24 (96%) for the victory, while Andersen rejected all but two of the 28 shots (92.9%) that reached his crease.

Part of the reason for the low shot totals was actual defensive play, as evidenced by John Carlson’s five shot blocks and William Nylander’s three takeaways – both game-highs. The other was simply all the penalties in the second period that slowed the game down. A total of 22 penalty minutes were served in this game, led by Tom Wilson’s eight.

Usually when it’s said that an athlete plays like a man possessed, it’s a good thing. Wilson did, but he was border-line insane. He received four penalties over the course of the game – including three in the middle frame.

Then again, this situation is not that simple. The reason Wilson and the Capitals were so angry is due to a check by Nazem Kadri that sent Alex Ovechkin violently crashing to the ice with 2:28 remaining in the first period. Though Kadri did serve two minutes in the penalty box for tripping, Washington made sure to remind the entire Leafs team what happens when they try to hurt its star.

And don’t be alarmed Capitals fans: Ovechkin returned to the ice for the second period.

Speaking of Kadri’s tripping penalty, it is that power play opportunity that yielded Washington’s regulation tally. T.J. Oshie (Nicklas Backstrom and Kevin Shattenkirk) provided the goal with 105 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Toronto answered only 7:45 later when Auston Matthews (Nylander and Zach Hyman) buried a wrister at the six-minute mark of the second.

Game 6 will take place at the Air Canada Centre at 7 p.m. Eastern time this Sunday. Americans will be able to view the Capitals’ first opportunity to clinch a 2017 semifinals berth on NBCSN, while Canadians can see if Toronto can force a Game 7 on SN or TVAS.

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Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 5

Sean Kuraly and the Boston Bruins stole Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in double overtime, forcing a Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators on home ice at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask made 41 saves on 43 shots faced for a .953 save percentage in 90:19 time on ice for the win, while Senators goalie, Craig Anderson made 36 saves on 39 shots against for a .923 SV% in the loss.

Mark Stone (1) started things off with a breakaway goal at 11:19 of the 1st period. Stone received a stretch pass from Mike Hoffman and brought the puck into the offensive zone, where he dangled past a sprawling Rask and flipped the puck in the net with a backhand. Hoffman (1) and Derick Brassard (4) assisted on the goal— Stone’s first of the 2017 postseason.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1) quickly gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead, 30 seconds into the 2nd period on yet another breakaway goal after both Boston defensemen were caught pressing in the neutral zone. Pageau’s goal beat Rask’s five-hole and was assisted by Viktor Stalberg (2) and Alexandre Burrows (1).

The Senators began to protect their two-goal lead with tactically smart possession, until David Pastrnak (2) received a pass from Brad Marchand and sent the puck behind Anderson to cut the lead in half 8:40 into the 2nd. Marchand (1) wrapped around the net on a pass from Patrice Bergeron (2) before delivering the puck to Pastrnak for the goal.

Late in the 2nd period, Kuraly (1) scored his first career NHL goal (and first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal, at that) on a fluke pay in which Kuraly received a pass behind the net from David Backes and bounced the puck off of Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman and into the goal. Regardless, Backes (2) and Joseph Morrow (1) collected the primary and secondary assists and the game was tied, 2-2 at 17:05 of the 2nd.

No goals were scored in the 3rd period, which meant that the next goal in the game would end it in sudden death overtime.

Boston thought they had scored on a play in which Kuraly moved in on Anderson on a breakaway and made incidental contact with the goaltender, as Noel Acciari found the loose puck and sent it to the twine. While their was no call immediately on the ice, the officials determined that there had been goaltender interference on the play, while the league in Toronto reviewed the play. The call on the ice was confirmed and thus, Boston had not ended it.

The Bruins then thought they had a chance for an automatic penalty shot moments later when Pageau collapsed on the puck behind Anderson in the crease, while batting the puck away from the goal line. Yet again, the officials on the ice saw it differently and assessed no penalty on the play.

In the long run, whether you had the Bruins having had two could have been goals already on the scoreboard, you technically wouldn’t have been wrong when Kuraly (2) ended it 10:19 into the second overtime. 

Charlie McAvoy shot the rubber biscuit from the point off of a face-off, which Backes deflected and through a short series of bounces, the unsuspecting Anderson was far enough out of position as Kuraly found the puck in the low slot. A quick backhander aimed at the gaping four-by-six frame was enough to end the game, 3-2 in favor of Boston.

Backes (3) and McAvoy (2) tabbed the assists on the game winning goal as Kuraly became the first Bruins rookie to score an overtime game winning goal since Matt Fraser did so in a 1-0 overtime victory on May 8, 2014 in Montreal.

In a game where David Krejci was forced out by virtue of a knee on knee collision with Senators defenseman Wideman, Kuraly came up big in his two-goal effort. Additionally, Kuraly was originally inserted in the lineup in place of Ottawa native, Ryan Spooner, who was a healthy scratch.

Boston’s interim head coach, Bruce Cassidy commented on Krejci’s status as day-to-day after the game and would not give any indication as to whether or not Spooner would be back in the lineup if Krejci is unavailable for Sunday’s matinee.

The Senators now lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC while Canadian fans can catch the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 19

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – Game 4

By: Connor Keith

With the Capitals’ 5-4 victory over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal featuring the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners and the NHL’s version of the all-rookie team is now a best-of-three series.

Barry Trotz probably didn’t need to say much to his club to stress how important this game was, but whatever he did say obviously worked. Before Toronto had even managed its second shot on goal, First Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Nicklas Backstrom and Nate Schmidt) had already registered the Capitals’ first tally.

That trend continued for the rest of the first period. Though Zach Hyman (Jake Gardiner and Third Star William Nylander) managed to register a marker for the Maple Leafs, Alex Ovechkin (Kevin Shattenkirk) and Second Star Tom Wilson (Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov) – twice (Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Orpik) – all got on the board before the first intermission to give the Caps a 4-1 lead.

Over the course of the remaining 40 minutes, the real pressure was on Braden Holtby and Washington’s defensive corps, the best in the business during the regular season. Led by Orlov’s five shot blocks throughout the contest, that defense played exceptionally, allowing only 28 total shots against in the second and third periods. Holtby let one by each period to allow the Leafs to pull within a goal with eight minutes remaining on the clock, but the man to save Washington has a little bit of history wearing red, white and blue.

The play started with a loose puck at the blue line of Frederik Andersen’s zone that neither Burakovsky nor Auston Matthews could fully take control. Though the puck ended up between three Maple Leafs, it was Backstrom that ended up with possession. The center quickly passed to Oshie, who ripped a snap shot from the near slot between Andersen’s glove and the pipe.

Oshie’s tally proved to be especially important, as it became the game-winner when Tyler Bozak (Mitch Marner and Nylander) banged home a wrister with the extra attacker with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Capitals made it unnecessarily hard on themselves to secure this victory though, as both Eller (delay of game – smothering puck) and Orpik (slashing against Marner) earned seats in the penalty box during a face-off in the defensive zone to set up 1:53 of five-on-three play to start the third. Regardless, the regular season’s seventh-best penalty kill proved itself by allowing only five shots to reach Holtby, and he saved all of them to maintain the then 4-2 advantage.

The series will recommence Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern time at the Verizon Center, the home of the Capitals. Americans wishing to watch game will find it on NBCSN, while Canada will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS2.

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Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins— Game 4

The Ottawa Senators are one win away from advancing to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 in Game 4. Bobby Ryan continued his hot streak with the only goal in Wednesday night’s action in Boston, while Craig Anderson picked up the 22 save shutout win.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots faced for a .963 save percentage in the loss.

After trading scoring chance after scoring chance in the first period, neither Anderson nor Rask had allowed a puck to sneak behind them into the net. Brad Marchand had a couple of tremendous breakaway opportunities in the first 20 minutes that Anderson had denied (first with his left leg on a Marchand backhand going five-hole attempt, then later with his right leg on another opportunity whereby Marchand couldn’t elevate the puck enough on a forehand snapper).

The Senators dominated possession of the puck on special teams advantages, but couldn’t translate any of that attacking zone time into a power play goal after entering Wednesday night 3/10 on the power play. Instead, the Bruins killed all three of the penalties they amassed in Game 4 to improve their penalty kill to a 76.9% effective rating.

Noel Acciari thought he had his second goal of the postseason just past halfway in the 2nd period on a redirected slap shot from Charlie McAvoy, however after Ottawa challenged the goal on the condition that it might have been offsides, video replay clearly showed Acciari entering Boston’s offensive zone illegally about 20 seconds before the would-be goal was scored. As a result, the call on the ice was overturned and the score remained, 0-0.

Ryan (3) tapped home the game winning goal after receiving a fake shot pass from Erik Karlsson. Ryan crashed the net while Rask was seemingly down and away and if it weren’t for the fact that Rask’s stick paddle was parallel to the ice, perhaps he might have made more than just one desperation save on Ryan’s initial shot.

Instead an outstretched Rask bumped the puck, slowing its velocity, but failed to cover it up for a face-off, leaving the hard-charging Ryan with an easy to pocket “just tap it in” moment reminiscent of the movie Happy Gilmore but with more of a success rate than Happy Gilmore’s mini golf endeavor.

Karlsson (5) and Derick Brassard (3) had the primary and secondary assists on Ryan’s goal at 5:49 of the 3rd period.

Ottawa takes a 3-1 series lead home to Canadian Tire Centre on Friday. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and Game 5 can be viewed nationally in the United States on USA and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues – Game 4

By: Connor Keith

Facing elimination, the Wild pulled out a 2-0 victory Wednesday over St. Louis at Scottrade Center, pulling them within a 3-1 deficit in their Western Conference Quarterfinal.

Staying true to form, this was another goaltending battle between two of the hottest netminders in the game right now. First Star of the Game Devan Dubnyk rejected each and every one of the 28 Blues shots he faced for his first victory of the 2017 postseason, while Jake Allen saved 26-of-28 (92.9%) in the loss.

The Blues seemed to know what was on the line in this game, and you could see it in their play. That sentence can be read both positively and negatively, and unfortunately for St. Louis it was the latter. Even though the Notes led the first period’s hit count (including five over the course of the game by Third Star Ryan Reaves) – which usually increases the fans’ energy – they managed only four shots on goal.

Second Star Charlie Coyle and the Wild – who fired 11 shots in the first period – took advantage of their opponent’s lackadaisical start by burying a wrister with 3:10 remaining in the frame. Though unassisted, he did get a helper on the play from Allen. Coyle dumped the puck into the zone, and Eric Staal’s pursuit forced Allen to make a play behind his net.

That’s where Coyle’s plan came to fruition. Allen’s sole intention was to get the puck out of the zone, so he tried to play it up the far boards. Instead of chasing the puck, the forward stayed home and intercepted Allen’s attempt at the far face-off circle. He immediately ripped his wrister that banked off the near post and into the back of the net.

The only other goal belonged to Martin Hanzal (Jason Pominville and Nate Prosser), a wrist shot with 3:19 remaining in the second period.  The play stretched the full stretch of the rink, starting with Prosser’s pass from the near face-off dot in the Wild’s defensive zone. His pass found Pominville at the red line, and he immediately dished to a streaking Hanzal. The center split Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo before releasing his shot from between the face-off circles, beating Allen stick-side.

Minnesota forced a Game 5, and it will host that contest at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Canadian broadcasters will be both SN and TVAS, and American viewers may watch that matchup on NBC.

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Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames— Game 4

The Anaheim Ducks punched their ticket to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 victory on the road, sweeping the Calgary Flames in four games.

Nate Thompson scored what would become the game winning goal early in the first period as the Ducks went on to sweep a playoff opponent in a best-of-seven game series for just the fifth time in franchise history.

Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 save percentage in the win, while Calgary goalies Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson split time in the loss. Elliott stopped two out of three shots before being replaced 5:38 into the 1st period by Johnson who went on to save 20 out of 21 shots against over 51:50 of time on ice.

Patrick Eaves (1) kicked things off on the scoreboard with an unassisted goal at 5:38 of the 1st period. Thompson (2) followed suit with his game winning goal 78 seconds later that made it 2-0 Anaheim. Rickard Rakell (3) and Corey Perry (2) notched assists on Thompson’s goal at 6:46 of the 1st.

Late in the 2nd period the Flames took advantage of their third and final power play of the night as Sean Monahan (4) continued his recent run of scoring. Kris Versteeg (3) and Troy Brouwer (2) collected the assists on Monahan’s power play goal at 16:07 of the 2nd period. Calgary cut the lead in half and went into the second intermission trailing, 2-1.

As the clock ticked down on Calgary’s season, Johnson vacated the goal for an extra attacker. Gibson stood tall as save after save piled up and the Ducks failed to clear the puck without icing it.

After a blocked shot, Ryan Getzlaf (3) brought the puck across the ice and put the series away on an empty net goal with 6.7 seconds left on the clock.

Having won the series, 4-0, the Anaheim Ducks advance to the Second Round and will face the winner of the Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks series matchup.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 17

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins— Game 3

The Ottawa Senators held off a charging effort from a thrilling comeback that just wasn’t meant to be for the Boston Bruins in a thrilling 4-3 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Monday night.

Bobby Ryan’s game winning goal on the power play came just five minutes, 43 seconds into overtime, sending Boston fans home unhappy on perhaps one of the happiest days of the year in the city— Patriot’s Day.

Ottawa goaltender, Craig Anderson made 17 saves on 20 shots faced for an .850 save percentage in 65:43 time on ice for the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss.

Senators forward, Mike Hoffman (1) kicked off scoring 7:15 into the 1st period with a nifty move (shades of Peter Forsberg) on a breakaway pass from Erik Karlsson that beat Rask. Karlsson (3) and Zach Smith (1) had the primary and secondary assists on what it sure to be a highlight reel goal in Ottawa’s promotional videos for a little while, at least.

Derick Brassard (2) quickly made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the low slot 35 seconds after Hoffman made it 1-0. Ryan (2) and Viktor Stalberg (1) contributed on Brassard’s goal that all but sucked the life out of the building.

With Kevan Miller in the box for interference, the Bruins’s already lackluster penalty kill from a rash of injuries on the blue line suffered even more. Hoffman (2) found the twine for his 2nd goal of the night just 3:42 into the 2nd period and made it a 3-0 lead. Chris Wideman (1) and Brassard (2) tallied assists on Hoffman’s power play goal.

A three goal deficit looked insurmountable for Boston, considering their lack of offensive prowess thus far into the game.

But Noel Acciari (1) redirected his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 6:05 of the 2nd period to put the Bruins on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two. John-Michael Liles (1) and Riley Nash (2) had the assists on the goal that made it a 3-1 game.

Just 42 seconds later, David Backes (1) had his turn to score on the breakaway— and he did, beating Anderson on the low side with help from Liles (2) and Tommy Cross (1). The Providence Bruins (AHL) captain, Cross notched his first career point in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in just his first appearance in a NHL playoff game.

Boston was right back into the swing of things, trailing 3-2.

David Pastrnak (1) unleashed a cannon of a shot on a power play goal for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal in just his third career NHL playoffs appearance at 13:51 of the 2nd. The assists on Pastrnak’s goal went to Charlie McAvoy (1) and Ryan Spooner (2). As a result, McAvoy picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in his third career NHL playoff game— he’s yet to debut in the regular season, mind you.

Both teams swapped chances until regulation alone could not decide the outcome of the game.

Ryan (2) continued his recent streak of timely contributions with a power play goal at 5:43 of overtime. Ryan’s goal did not come without controversy, however. No, it was not because of an offsides review, but rather, the fact that it appeared as though Ryan had gotten away with a right elbow on Bruins forward, Riley Nash, before Nash retaliated and was subsequently penalized.

Regardless of the right call/wrong call argument, Kyle Turris (1) and Karlsson (4) notched the assists on the game winning goal and the Senators now have a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at TD Garden with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on USA in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

As has become custom with this series, Toronto needed overtime to beat the Capitals 4-3 Monday at the Air Canada Centre and earn a one-game lead in its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

Game 3’s overtime hero is none other than longtime Leaf and First Star of the Game Tyler Bozak, but the game-winning play actually started before regulation even ended. Not only did Toronto outshoot the Capitals 9-3 in the third period, but they also earned a man-advantage. With 16 seconds remaining before the end of regulation, Lars Eller earned himself a seat in the penalty box for hi-sticking Zach Hyman. Hyman had already gotten under Washington’s skin earlier in the period, as he and Game 1’s winner, Tom Wilson, both earned negating roughing penalties with 2:32 remaining in regulation.

Washington was only seven seconds from killing off Toronto’s third power play of the game, but Bozak had other intentions. After Bozak won possession behind Braden Holtby’s net, Morgan Rielly got ahold of the puck at the blue line to reset the play. He dished to Nazem Kadri at the far face-off circle, who quickly fired a wrist shot towards the crease. It was intentionally off target, a set play the Leafs have been working on that allowed Bozak to redirect the puck to the near post past Holtby’s blocker for the lone man-advantage goal of the contest.

To make matters worse for the Caps, they are just another chapter in what seems to be the most popular sports meme of the past year: Washington joins the Cleveland Indians and Golden State Warriors in blowing a 3-1 lead.*

Washington’s first line was on fire to start this matchup. After only 4:49 of play, Third Star Nicklas Backstrom (Nate Schmidt and T.J. Oshie) and Alex Ovechkin (Backstrom and Oshie) had both found the back of the net for an early 2-0 lead. If not for Second Star Auston Matthews’ (Rielly) tally with 5:52 remaining in the first period, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) goal 5:39into the second frame would have been three-straight goals before the midway point.

But as swift as the Capitals’ offense was to start the first period, the Maple Leafs were just as fast to close the second. In a span of only4:07, Kadri (Leo Komarov) and William Nylander (Matthews and Hyman) scored a tip-in and a wrister, respectively, to level the game at three-all.

Perhaps the most exciting play of the game belonged to Holtby, but it wasn’t anything he did in his crease. He stopped any chance of a Leafs breakaway opportunity at the tail end of a Washington five-on-three advantage in the second period. As Mitch Marner was screaming up the far end of the ice, he emerged from his crease to beyond the face-off circle to force the puck off of the rookie’s stick.

*Honorary Mention: the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

With a 3-2 overtime victory at Bridgestone Arena Monday, Nashville has taken a three-game lead in its Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup against the Blackhawks.

Pick your overtime goal-scorer from the Predators’ roster: Viktor Arvidsson? Second Star of the Game Filip Forsberg? Ryan Johansen? James Neal?

No, nope, nada and that was the closest guess, but still wrong. It was actually rookie Kevin Fiala, who took First Star honors with only his second tally of the postseason.

The play actually started as a simple dump along the far boards into the offensive zone by Calle Jarnkrok to give Nashville a defensive line change due to a poor pass from Neal at the blue line. To make up for his mistake, Neal meets the puck along the near boards and begins advancing it towards Corey Crawford’s net by using the eventual goal-scorer as a screen. Once Fiala reached the top of the crease, Neal dished the puck to him for an easy backhanded winner.

An overtime winner is far from how the Preds started Game 3. It seems the Blackhawks’ offense was taking a vacation and catching some tunes at the Grand Ole Opry in the first two games of this series. Now that it is reconnected with the club, it’s all Chicago could seem to do. Only 65 seconds into the second period, Dennis Rasmussen (Marcus Kruger and Richard Panik) scored the Hawks’ first goal of the series, followed 10:10 later by Patrick Kane’s (Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews) first goal since March 27. Chicago took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission and looked to be righting the ship.

My how things changed in a hurry, but Joel Quenneville is going to have some questions for the league on his day off Tuesday, as he is probably of the opinion that neither of the Predators’ regulation goals should have counted.

The first is less of a discussion point. Arvidsson fired the original wrist shot, but overshot the crossbar and sent the puck flying towards the glass. …Or, at least that’s what Crawford expected. But instead of finding glass, Arvidsson’s misfire banked off one of Bridgestone Arena’s golden stanchions that connect the panes of glass, causing a wild ricochet that ended up landing right in front of an unknowing Crawford. Forsberg discovered the puck first, and he finished the play with a wrist shot only 4:24 into the third period.

The reason for doubt with this goal is no camera angle – at least not one that CNBC had access to – could tell if the puck continued travelling up the glass after hitting the stanchion and touched the netting. If it did, the puck that landed in Crawford’s crease should have been ruled dead, meaning the goal would not have counted.

The second though, that is the one that had the entire Windy City screaming at its televisions. After receiving a feed from Johansen, Ryan Ellis fired a strong slap shot from the point. His aim was pure, but Crawford was able to deflect, but not contain the puck. Forsberg took advantage, as he collected the rebound by crossing the crease and puts it far post to level the game at two-all.

Forsberg’s collection (or his board, as basketball fans would say) is where things get a little hairy. As he traverses the crease, he makes contact with Crawford – who is technically outside his crease, but has established his position – and knocks the goaltender off-balance. Though the Blackhawks challenged the play, the replay official in Toronto upheld the goal with no goaltender interference.

Probably something about no conclusive evidence. That’s what every official ever says from the replay booth.

A third period battle that was especially exciting to watch was contested between P.K. Subban and Toews. Near the midway point of the third period, the golden-clad defenseman effectively, though legally, tripped the Hawks’ captain. Of course, Toews didn’t like that too much and landed a forceful slash on the back of Subban’s legs – one of the few places a skater has no padding. But what really made this battle so interesting – be it between Subban and Toews or any other plays – is the level of respect exhibited by both sides. No matter what happened while the clock was running, the physical play stopped almost immediately after the whistle was blown.

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Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames— Game 3

Speaking of blown leads (look at Connor’s WSH @ TOR recap for reference), the Calgary Flames blew a 4-1 lead in Game 3 of their First Round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks and succumbed to a 5-4 overtime loss Monday night on home ice at Scotiabank Saddledome

Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson made 12 saves on 16 shots against before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who went on to stop all 16 shots he faced in the remaining 32:57 of the game for the win. Flames goalie, Brian Elliott made 22 saves out of 27 shots faced for an .815 save percentage in the loss.

Sean Monahan (3) kicked off scoring early into the 1st period for Calgary with a power play goal. Troy Brouwer (1) and Johnny Gaudreau (2) were credited with the helpers as the Flames took a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into the game.

Kris Versteeg (1) followed suit with a power play goal of his own and his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs a little over seven minutes later to put Calgary up 2-0. Monahan (1) and T.J. Brodie (3) had the helpers on Versteeg’s first postseason goal in a Flames uniform.

Before the first period was out, there were some signs of life from the Ducks, as Nick Ritchie (1) notched his first of the 2017 postseason behind Elliott. Antoine Vermette (1) and Hampus Lindholm (1) assisted on Ritchie’s goal which cut the lead in half heading into the first intermission. 

Things were looking up for the Flames as their February acquisition from the Arizona Coyotes, defenseman Michael Stone (1), scored his first of the playoffs 4:34 into the second frame. Stone’s goal was assisted by Brodie (4) and Mikael Backlund (1) and added some insurance to their lead at 3-1.

Sam Bennett (2) added to a hot night for the Flames power play unit with a goal at 8:33 of the 2nd period. Calgary captain, Mark Giordano (1) and Backlund (2) picked up the assists as the lead grew to 4-1.

But Shea Theodore (1) wouldn’t let the Flames or their fans become complacent just yet, firing his first of the postseason into the twine with 49 seconds left in the 2nd period to make it a 4-2 game. Rickard Rakell (1) and Kevin Bieksa (3) assisted on Theodore’s goal.

If you thought the Flames were in the clear past halfway in the 3rd period, you were wrong.

Nate Thompson (1) tipped in his first of the playoffs on a goal that was reviewed for a potential high stick 11:14 into the final frame of regulation. Lindholm (2) fired the original shot and Corey Perry (1) sent the initial pass to Lindholm for the primary and secondary assists on Thompson’s goal.

Theodore (2) struck for the 2nd time on the night with Bieksa (4) and Thompson (1) collecting the helpers on the game tying goal at 15:39 of the 3rd period.

In a little over four minutes the Ducks had tied the game, 4-4, and forced overtime.

Sudden death overtime didn’t last too long, however, as Perry (1) wired one past Calgary’s net minder 90 seconds into the overtime period. Rakell (2) and Thompson (2) had the assists on what became a three point night for Nate Thompson (one goal, two assists). Anaheim had completed the comeback and stolen a win on road ice.

Perry’s goal marked the first time in franchise history for the Ducks to have overcome a three-goal deficit and win in a postseason game. Monday night also marked the third time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that all four games scheduled on the same night required overtime.

Anaheim now leads Calgary 3-0 in the series with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. Wednesday’s action can be viewed nationwide in the United States on USA and in Canada on CBC and TVA Sports.

April 8 – Day 171 – Have mercy on the Leafs, Kessel!

All but two teams are in action today, so the playoff situation could be a whole lot clearer at the end of the night.

Not only are 14 games being played, but they’re spaced throughout the day for our viewing pleasure! The action starts with two 12:30 p.m. matinees (the New York Rangers at Ottawa [NHLN/RDS/SN] and Columbus at Philadelphia), followed by Washington at Boston (NBC) at 3 p.m. The evening’s play starts an hour early, as two contests (Chicago at Los Angeles and the New York Islanders at New Jersey) drop the puck at 6 p.m., trailed an hour after by five more (Nashville at Winnipeg [CITY], Pittsburgh at Toronto [CBC/NHLN], Montréal at Detroit [SN/TVAS], Buffalo at Florida and St. Louis at Carolina). Colorado at Dallas gets underway at 8 p.m., with Minnesota at Arizona waiting an hour for its green light. Finally, our co-nightcaps (Edmonton at Vancouver [CBC] and Calgary at San Jose [NHLN/SN]) drop the puck at 10 p.m. to close out the day.

Short list:

  • New York at Ottawa: Before they were members of the Rangers‘ high-flying offense, Matt Puempel and Mika Zibanejad spent a combined eight seasons in Ottawa.
  • Washington at Boston: Another player making his return to his former home is Brett Connolly, who played two seasons with the Bruins.
  • Chicago at Los Angeles: Though the rivalry has died off lately, the Hawks and Kings have played some vicious games in the past.
  • Pittsburgh at Toronto: All the Leafs need to qualify for the playoffs is a lone victory. This is the more winnable of their last two games.
  • Montréal at Detroit: Not only is it an Original Six rivalry and the Habs‘ last trip to Joe Louis Arena, but Steve Ott also makes his first return to Motown since being traded at the deadline.
  • Minnesota at Arizona: After 10 years with the Coyotes, Martin Hanzal will play his first game in Gila River Arena as a visitor.
  • Calgary at San Jose: The Flames want to avoid Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, and San Jose still has a chance at home ice against the Oilers. Only one of those things can happen, and it’s decided tonight.

It may not be the fun answer, but we have to go to Toronto to see if the Maple Leafs can lock up a spot in the playoffs. Sorry Connolly, Hanzal, Ott, Puempel and Zibanejad!

 

The 50-19-11 Penguins have already clinched second place in the Metropolitan Division and will host at least the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This game is not about them.

Instead, all eyes are on 39-26-15 Toronto, the club beloved by many that currently occupies the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

As stated before, it’s a simple win-and-you’re-in situation for the Leafs. A victory tonight would give the Maple Leafs an insurmountable 95 points on the season, more than either the Lightning (92 points, one game remaining) or Islanders (90 points, two games remaining) can surpass.

That’s goal number one: qualification.

Of course, there’s plenty more on the table here if the Leafs can sweep their last two games. Third place is certainly an achievable goal, as it is currently occupied by a Boston team with 95 points and only one game remaining – a dreadfully difficult home contest against the Capitals.

Since that game will be done by the time the Leafs drop the puck tonight, they’ll know if they can surpass the Bruins in the standings or not. Toronto already knows it cannot surpass Boston if it wins this afternoon, as the Leafs could only tie the Bruins at 97 points, but lose the regulation+overtime-wins tiebreaker.

Even second place in the division is still on the board should the Bruins lose today and the Senators (96 points) lose both their remaining games and no more than one require overtime.

But that’s probably getting ahead of ourselves. Remember, the first goal is qualification.

Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, April’s schedule is not doing them any favors in achieving that goal. After opening the month in Detroit, Toronto has faced or will face five quality opponents – quality offenses, to be exact –  in a row. They beat the Red Wings 5-4 on April Fools’ Day, followed by a strong 4-2 victory against a sneaky-good Sabres team.

Then started the ill-timed losing skid. Though all skids are ill-timed (Unless you’re Colorado, I suppose. Nolan Patrick won’t fall into just anybody’s lap!), one during a playoff push is especially unwanted.

After returning home for the final four games of the regular season, the Leafs fell to the Capitals 4-1 on Tuesday (Eh, they can handle that. Everybody loses to Washington), followed two days later by another 4-1 loss to the Lightning. That’s the one that caused the most damage, as a victory would have clinched the last spot in the postseason and made this game a little less important.

Obviously there have been issues on both sides of the puck. The easy answer is to crucify the defense and goaltending, but I don’t think that’s the right one. 5-6-0 Curtis McElhinney was in net for the Washington game since it was only a night after the Leafs‘ contest in Buffalo, and 33-16-14 Frederik Andersen reclaimed the crease for the Tampa game.

Sure, you want Andersen to beat the Bolts, but he had been on a five-game winning streak (his longest of the year, if my count is correct) and was bound to drop a game eventually, especially when faced with such a potent offense of late.

And though the defense hasn’t played well recently, when has it this year?  They’ve allowed an average of 32.8 shots-per-game to reach Andersen’s crease on the season, the third-worst rate in the NHL. The fact that they allowed a combined total of only 68 (34 per game) shots against both the Caps and Bolts is almost impressive!

If anything, the only major setback in the last two games for Toronto has been its penalty kill. Usually successfully killing 82.6% of opponent’s power plays (ninth-best in the NHL), that rate has dropped to only 60% of late, which is tied for fourth-worst in the league in that time.

But for a team that has averaged 3.04 goals-per-game, the fifth-highest scoring rate in the league, to score only a goal in both games is alarming. Even more concerning is that Tyler Bozak, a third-liner, took credit for both the tallies, meaning the remaining 17 Leafs skaters – including the top two lines – have been held goalless.

And the cherry on top? Those that follow the Leafs know that Bozak and Auston Matthews do not share ice time in any circumstance (even-strength or power play), meaning the rookie wonder has not registered even an assist during this skid.

Scoring is usually the kid’s thing! Matthews has done it all year. Starting with his four-goal effort to begin his NHL career and all throughout the season, he’s found a way to generate offense. He leads Toronto in points (67). He leads Toronto in goals (39).

Yet it’s that exact reason that I’m not too worried about Matthews. Barring a horrid seven-game run to start March and the five-game drought as he was getting adjusted to the league, the youngster has faced only a three-game pointless skid this season (albeit twice). He is the energy in this Leafs team and will not be kept off the scorecard for long.

One way to get Toronto back to scoring is to take advantage of the man-advantage opportunities it is presented with. On the season, the Maple Leafs have been the second-best power play in the league by converting 24.1% of their opponents’ infractions into goals.

This is where fellow rookie William Nylander can shoulder the burden of providing offense with Matthews, as the Albertan has notched a team-leading 25 power play points. Nazem Kadri can also be instrumental from the second power play unit with his squad-leading 12 extra-man goals.

Though they’re riding a four-game winning streak, the Leafs have a great opportunity to get back on track against Pittsburgh. The Pens have allowed 10 goals during this streak, including four to the lowly Devils on Thursday.

The Penguins defense is fourth-worst in the league when measured by shots allowed-per-game this season (32.7), and that’s been an even worse 36.25 in the month of April. Regardless of who’s in net, be it 32-10-4 Matthew Murray or 18-9-7 Marc-Andre Fleury, they should see a lot of shots coming their way.

Those defensive struggles are especially apparent on the penalty kill of late, as the Pens‘ penalty kill rate of 66.7% in the past week ties Detroit for the sixth-worst mark in the NHL in that time. Since March 31, Murray has faced 15 power play shots, which ties for eighth-most against the 58 other goaltenders in that time.

Of course, to truly beat the Pens is to stifle slow down their offense. Doing that will require a bit of work, as first liners Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel both have six points to their credit over the past four games. The rookie may actually be more impressive than his captain of late, as four of his points have been goals, a total that leads the club.

Pittsburgh is especially potent on the man-advantage, mostly because each member of both power play units is capable of scoring. Eight players in the past week, almost evenly split between the two special teams, have notched a power play point to lead the Pens to a 36.4% conversion rate (third-best in that time). Lately, the stars of the show have been Nick Bonino and Patric Hornqvist, both of whom have registered a power play goal and assist.

In the previous two times these clubs have met, the Penguins have had an upper-hand, as they lead the season series 1-0-1. That being said, the last time they met on December 17 (at the Air Canada Centre, in fact) was when Toronto bested the Pens 2-1 thanks to Jake Gardiner‘s overtime goal.

Some players to keep an eye on include Pittsburgh‘s Ian Cole (+27 [tied for seventh-best in the league]), Crosby (43 goals [leads the NHL] for 88 points [tied for second-most in the league]), Murray (.923 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the NHL] for 32 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Justin Schultz (+27 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (33 wins [eighth-most in the league], including four shutouts [10th-most in the NHL]) and Matthews (39 goals [tied for third-most in the league]).

I like the Leafs to win this game tonight mostly due to my faith in Matthews. He knows he’s too important to his club to not be effective on the offensive end, and he should be able to take advantage of a poor, uninspired Penguins defense.


Thanks to First Star of the Game Yanni Gourde‘s two-goal night, the Lightning not only beat the host Canadiens 4-2, but they also kept their slim postseason hopes alive in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though every period of play featured two goals, the difference in this game proved to be the first, as both tallies belonged to the Bolts. Gourde (Second Star Nikita Kucherov and Luke Witkowski) fired an ice-breaking wrist shot with 8:18 remaining in the period to give Tampa Bay the lead, and Kucherov (Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point) followed that up with a wrister of his own 10 seconds before intermission.

Dwight King (Third Star Artturi Lehkonen and Nikita Nesterov) pulled the Habs back within a goal a second before the midway point of the contest with a pure wrister, but Alex Killorn (Cory Conacher) was able to score what ended up being the game-winning wrister only 4:20 later. Tampa took its 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

Only 4:36 into the third frame, Lehkonen took advantage of a Tampa Bay mistake to score a shorthanded backhand shot and pull Montréal back within a tally, but Gourde’s (Conacher and Jake Dotchin) wrister only 21 seconds later put an end to any Habs comeback.

Andrei Vasilevskiy earned the victory after saving 27-of-29 shots faced (93.1%), leaving the loss to Carey Price, who saved 18-of-22 (81.8%).

With their second 4-2 victory in a row, road teams are trying their darnedest to win the DtFR Game of the Day series. They trail the 87-61-25 home teams by only three points with two days remaining in the regular season.

April 3 – Day 166 – One more! For Queen Elizabeth!

Seven more days of the regular season remain, making this the last Monday of the NHL year. I know it’s difficult, but enjoy it as best as you can.

To help you do that, there’s three games on the schedule tonight. A pair of those (Toronto at Buffalo [NHLN/SN/TVAS] and Ottawa at Detroit [RDS2]) drop the puck at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by Montréal at Florida (RDS) – tonight’s early nightcap. All times eastern.

Since none of these games are matchups of playoff teams, what better contest to watch than the Battle for the Queen Elizabeth Way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though divided by a national border, the fact that these towns are separated by only 89 miles/145 kilometers has yielded quite the rivalry. That hatred has only increased this season as both the Maple Leafs and Sabres are returning to form and promise to be strong clubs next season and for years to come.

The future has come early in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs have a 38-24-15 record that is good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. Winners of their past three games, the Leafs have been especially good since March 16, as they’ve gone 7-1-1 since then, which ties for the fourth-best run in the league in that time.

Just like it’s been all season, the reason for Toronto‘s success over this run has been its incredible offense. The Leafs have scored 32 goals since mid-March, a total that ties for second-most in the league in that time.

The man behind this attack? Exactly who it’s been all year: rookie phenom Auston Matthews. Not only has the kid scored seven goals for 11 points in the last nine games, but he’s also tied at 38 with Nikita Kucherov for third-most tallies all season.

It goes without saying, but this Leaf is absolutely special. He is the number one reason Toronto is currently in playoff position going to be in the playoffs, and potentially could be reasons two and three as well.

Reason four just might be Toronto‘s power play. Converting 30.4% of  their opportunities of late, the Maple Leafs‘ man-advantage has been fourth-best in the NHL since March 16. While Matthews has been effective during this specific stretch (he’s scored three power play goals for four points in his last nine games), fellow rookie William Nylander has been the true stud on the man-advantage. He’s notched 25 points with the extra man all season, nine of which have been tallies off his stick, to lead all first-year players.

To complete our perfunctory list, reason number five has to be Toronto‘s penalty kill. Thanks in large part to 32-15-14 Frederik Andersen and his .897 power play save percentage (fourth best in the league among the 37 netminders with at least 32 appearances), the Maple Leafs have rejected 83% of opposing man-advantages to rank eighth-best in the NHL.

Don’t tell anybody, but that lone regulation loss Toronto has suffered recently came at the hands of the 32-34-12 Sabres, the second-worst team in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, that win is one of only four the Sabres have earned in their past seven games.

You’ve got to score to win, and that’s been Buffalo‘s main struggle of late. Although Jack Eichel has averaged a point-per-game over this stretch (including three goals) to lead the team, he and Ryan O’Reilly (six points) have been the only two forwards really contributing to the attack lately.

Of course, that’s looking at the offense as a whole. When you start breaking things down, you find Buffalo‘s problem truly lies in even-strength play, as its power play has been the best in the league since mid-March.

Yes, even better than Washington‘s vaunted attack.

The Sabres have converted 46.7% of their man-advantage opportunities in the last two weeks, and it is on this assault where more of the team has participated. 15 different players have contributed at least a point on even-strength play since March 17, compared to 10 on the power play in that time.

Five more players were involved? Great! Bottom line, it means the Sabres are scoring!

True, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. Buffalo has spent a combined 22:16 on the man-advantage over 15 opportunities in its past seven games. Both those totals are the lowest in the league over that stretch. That means much of the team has effectively wasted the remaining (approximately) 400 minutes they’ve played, as they’ve only scored nine goals during five-on-five play, or a goal every 44 minutes.

One goal per 44 minutes of even-strength play does not win hockey games. If that’s not apparent by Buffalo‘s recent record, I don’t know what is.

Fortunately, the Sabres have remained competitive due to performing the opposite special team as well as they execute the power play. 22-24-8 Robin Lehner deserves much of the credit for that success, as his .926 power play save percentage ranks sixth-best in the NHL among the 39 goalies with at least four appearances since March 17.

Though the Sabres will miss the postseason for the sixth-straight season, this is an important game for Buffalo. Due to their two-game winning streak against Toronto, the Sabres have tied the season series against the Maple Leafs at 2-2-0, making this contest a true rubber match.

They last squared off on March 25 at the KeyBank Center – the same site of tonight’s game – where the Sabres won 5-2 on Eichel’s two-goal, three-point night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Lehner (.921 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (32 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league], including four shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]), Jake Gardiner (+26 [10th-best in the league]) and Matthews (38 points [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Uh oh, that’s not good for the home team. Vegas has marked this game with a +140 line, meaning the odds-makers favor the Leafs. Unfortunately for the Sabres, so do I. While both clubs are almost evenly matched on special teams, the Toronto‘s offense is far superior at even-strength, which is where they should earn the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ray Getliffe (1914-2008) – Though originally a Bruin, this forward spent most of his 10-year career in Montréal. A two-time Stanley Cup champion, he hoisted the trophy once with both clubs.
  • Bernie Parent (1945-) – Another player to start his career in Boston, this Hall-of-Fame goaltender played most of his 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers. He was a five-time All Star and won two Conn Smythes, Vezinas and – most importantly – Stanley Cups.
  • Brent Gilchrist (1967-) – Drafted by Montréal 79th-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing  played 15 seasons in the league – most of which with the Stars organization. He hoisted his lone Stanley Cup in 1998 with the Red Wings.
  • Shawn Bates (1975-) – The Boston-theme continues with this center, as the Bruins selected him in the fourth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He actually spent most of his 10-year career with the Islanders, with whom he notched 170 of his 198 career points.
  • Stephen Weiss (1983-) – The fourth-overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this center spent all but two of his 13 seasons with the Panthers. He notched 423 points before hanging up his skates, including 156 goals.

The Predators had the chance to not only clinch their postseason berth with a victory, but also surpass the Blues for third place in the Central Division. Instead, St. Louis beat Nashville 4-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

St. Louis didn’t wait long to get on the board, courtesy of a Vladimir Tarasenko (Jaden Schwartz and First Star of the Game David Perron) wrist shot 5:22 after the initial puck drop. Ryan Johansen (Filip Forsberg and P.K. Subban) and the Preds responded exactly six minutes later to tie the game at one-all with a power play wrister, the score that held into the first intermission.

Alex Steen (Perron) provided the game-winner early in the second period. He buried a wrister only 55 seconds after resuming play from the first intermission, followed only 5:52 later by a Perron (Alex Pietrangelo) wrister. Those tallies set the score at 3-1, which held into the second intermission.

The lone score of the third belonged to Third Star Joel Edmundson, an unassisted wrister 8:11 into the frame.

Second Star Jake Allen saved 35-of-36 shots faced (97.2%) to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Juuse Saros, who saved 21-of-25 (84%).

Nashville did qualify for the playoffs yesterday by virtue of Arizona beating ninth-place Los Angeles.

For four straight days now, home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have earned two points in the standings. Within the series, that has given hosts a 85-58-25 record, five points better than the roadies.