Good morning hockey fans! There were eight games on the slate in the NHL yesterday. Let’s get right to it.
Pittsburgh Penguins 3 – 0 New Jersey Devils
The Scoop: Tonight’s opener for New Jersey marked the first time in 18 years that a goaltender not named Martin Brodeur started the first game of the season for them. Starting in lieu of Brodeur, was Cory Schneider who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the off-season. Schneider didn’t exactly start well as the first goal of the game, by Penguins winger Chuck Kobasew, was on a big rebound off the stick of center Brandon Sutter. The goal could’ve been prevented by Devils defenseman Adam Larsson who began to glide at the last second instead of picking up Kobasew, but that’s a puck Schneider has to secure. The first period was awful for the Devils in general though as all three of their giveaways came in the period. Additionally, six of Pittsburgh’s 10 total takeaways came in the first period. The Devils generated no takeaways in the first period.
The second goal of the game came off the stick of Sidney Crosby, in what was a complete gimme-goal for the best player in hockey. Thanks to a Ryan Clowe back-checking error (he chose to chase the puck carrier Dupuis even though defenseman Paul Harrold was in good position to slow down him down), Crosby was able to streak down the middle of the ice, totally unaccounted for. He took a Dupuis pass once they gained the zone and roofed it past Schneider. The insurance goal was nice but unneeded , as the Devils failed to generate anything offensively as they didn’t hold the puck very often when they entered the zone. According to this chart from @Shutdownline, the Devils controlled the puck only 31 percent of the time they gained the zone, meaning they were playing mostly dump and chase. This strategy obviously proved ineffective.
Florida Panthers 4 – 2 Dallas Stars
The Scoop: The Panthers pulled an impressive upset on the road against a supposedly improved Stars team that added much needed talent at center in the off-season in Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. The Panthers pulled out to a 1-0 lead thanks to the efforts of off-season Scott Gomez. Gomez benefitted from great positioning in front of the net as an oblivious Adam Chiasson stood around and watched Gomez slide right past him into position in front of goaltender Kari Lehtonen. The 23-year-old Chiasson, a right winger, later atoned for his sin by making a nice play to score on a wrap-around goal against goaltender Tim Thomas.
The crucial moment in this game was rookie Aleksander Barkov’s first career NHL goal. The goal is the subject of today’s acute analysis angle.
The play: With 9:38 left in the third period the Stars were up 2-1 and were up against a defensive-zone face-off. The Stars had their best face-off man for the game, Vernon Fiddler, in the circle. Fiddler went 13-for-20 for the game (65%), whereas Barkov, who was taking the draw for Florida, was an atrocious 3-for-13 (23%) for the game in the face-off circle. Incredibly, Barkov recorded his only win in the circle against Fiddler on the night (against four losses) and the Panthers controlled the puck.
FREEZE: What’s wrong with the picture below?
The draw actually went backwards and after a few passes, the puck ended up on the stick of Panthers sophomore Jonathan Huberdeau. Notice the fact that every single Dallas Star player is one side of the ice and veteran defenseman Trevor Daley (sprawled on the ice) is in the midst of an incredibly feeble attempt to prevent Huberdeau from getting a shot off. It is completely evident at this point that if Huberdeau gets the puck past the sliding Daley, a goal is an almost certainty
FREEZE: More Dallas confusion as a cluster-bomb of Stars players surrounds the net.
Amazingly, Trevor Daley found the time to get back up from his feeble slide and contribute another incredibly stupid play, this time by shoving Panthers winger Brad Boyes right into the net, effectively preventing goaltender Lehtonen to stretch out and make the save. Barkov spins around and fires the puck through the crowd and into the net to tie the game on a shift that started poorly for the Stars even before the puck was dropped. Notice the confusion before the play as the Stars are attempting to point out assignments. Panthers center Marcel Goc, who went an insane 16-for-20 in the face-off circle on the night, also added two goals, the game-winner and an empty-netter as the Panthers pulled off a win they probably should not have gotten.
Boston Bruins 3 – 1 Tampa Bay Lightning
The Scoop: Tampa Bay began Game 1 of an incredibly difficult opening schedule as they are slated to face the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on the road, immediately after facing the Eastern Conference Champion Bruins. The game did not get off to a great start for Lightning fans as the Bolts’ stellar play in the first period was negated by an atrocious penalty-shot call made by referee Steve Kozari. Bruins Alternate Captain Chris Kelly was the benefactor of the poor call and he made the most of it by scoring on a gorgeous leg-kick deke move on starting goalie Anders Lindback. As bad as the call was though, the play never would’ve happened if not for Lightning blue-liner Mark Barbeiro’s turnover. Barbeiro was a late addition to the lineup as a replacement for Sami Salo, who was an injured-scratch despite participating in the morning skate.
After off-season acquisition Valtteri Filppula’s second period goal, it was all Boston as they went on to dominate the rest of the game.
Washington Capitals 5 – 4 Calgary Flames (SO)
The Scoop: The Washington Capitals played perhaps as poorly as they could and still found a way to win. The Flames got out to a 3-0 lead in the first period which resulted in Caps goalie Braden Holtby being yanked. As poor as Holtby played in the first period, the Capitals, primarily Mike Green and Jack Hillen (who left the game due to injury), contributed an awful defensive play a piece that led to two of the goals. Eventually the Capitals caught a break as the Flames lack of attention to the penalty clock allowed defenseman Connor Carrick to jump out of the penalty box and into an immediate breakaway, resulting in a goal off a nice deke move against Flames goalie Karri Ramo. After a fluky Flames fourth goal, brought about by a clumsy stumble behind the net by new Caps goalie Michael Neuvirth (pronounced noy-vair), captain Alex Ovechkin got on the board with the first of his two straight goals, with the second coming on the power-play. Ovechkin eventually potted the game-winning goal in a shoot-out as the Caps squeezed out the victory. Ovechkin finished with 11 shots as well. On a side note, the Capitals are now 5-for-9 on the power-play on the season,a year after leading the league in the statistic. Hillen, the Capitals defenseman who left the game due to injury, is suffering from a right-leg injury (possibly broken) and coach Adam Oates indicated after the game that he was in the hospital and will be out for a significant period of time.
Phoenix Coyotes 4 – 1 New York Rangers
The Scoop: Growing pains are to be expected from the Rangers as they learn new Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s system. Unfortunately, the usual stable Henrik Lundqvist was beat for four goals, including three to Radim Vrbata. The 32-year-old veteran sniper finished last season with a hat-trick in the Coyotes final game of the season, an impressive feat as he now has turned the trick in his past two regular season games. The Rangers clearly showed late in the game that the wheels had come completely off, as super-star Rick Nash got into a fight with Martin Hanzal (who had two assists in the game). Both players fought with their visors on, which may or may not result in a fine depending on how strict Brendan Shanahan decides to get with player safety. Phoenix also finished the game with 13 takeaways.
Los Angeles Kings 3 – 2 Minnesota Wild (SO)
The Scoop: The Wild got off to a quick start as they scored one minute and four seconds into the game thanks to a fortunate deflection off winger Matt Cooke’s skate. The Kings responded seven minutes later with a goal off the stick of defenseman Drew Doughty on the power-play to tie the game at one. Later, Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, who received 27 minutes of ice-time (paired with Ryan Suter) was the recipient of a nifty pass from off-season acquisition Nino Niederreiter on the power-play. Kings center Jeff Carter played hero as he scored the game-tying goal in the third period and pocketed the game-winning shoot-out goal. Amusingly, none of the Kings players were awarded as one of the three stars as the game was at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center. The second star, center Charlie Coyle contributed a whopping four shots, zero points, a minus-1 plus/minus rating and a 6-for-15 effort in the face-off circle.
St. Louis Blues 4 – 2 Nashville Predators
The Scoop: The Blues started off strong in their home-opener as winger/center David Backes scored the first goal of the game on the power-play just two minutes and five seconds into the game thanks to a lackluster defensive effort from Predators point-man Roman Josi. Josi gave a Backes a light shove in front of the net than let Backes casually wander behind him, allowing Backes to pick up the goal off a huge rebound by Pekka Rinne. The Blues would tack on two more goals, one by Vladamir Sobotka and the other by T.J. Oshie. Nashville centers Mike Fisher and David Legwand each scored to bring the Predators back to within one, but center Alexander Steen’s power-play goal in the third period sealed it up for St. Louis. Prized Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones finished with 18:36 of ice-time, three shots and a plus-2 plus/minus rating, the latter of which is most impressive. Although not named one of the games three stars, Sobotka, a center, was one of the best performers as he went 7-for-9 in face-offs along with his first period goal.
San Jose Sharks 4 – 1 Vancouver Canucks
The Scoop: The Sharks opened up the newly named “SAP Center” in a big way by defeating their rivals the Vancouver Canucks in the first game of the season, after sweeping them out of the playoffs a year ago. The Canucks were the ones who started the game best though, as defenseman Jason Garrison rifled home a one-timer from the point on the power-play that both Sedin twins assisted on. The Sharks would control the rest of the game from there, responding with four straight goals. In order, Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Patrick Marleau, and Tommy Wingels potted the goals for San Jose, while center Logan Couture recorded two assists. The Sharks domination came despite struggles in the face-off circle as eight different Sharks took a face-off, six of which took more than two of them. Veteran Joe Thornton was the worst in the circle as he was a paltry 3-for-11 (27%).