Monday October 27th, 2014

What to watch tonight

Wild at Rangers (7 p.m. EDT, TVA, FS-N, FS-WI, MSG)

NHL
Eye Test: Cody Franson's game is ugly, but his pretty stats don't lie

The surprising Wild (4-2-0) aren't being widely hailed as one of the new #fancystats teams, but it's possible that their early success is predicated on one of the central tenets of the new analytical era: Entering the zone with the puck is proven to be more effective at leading to scoring chances than dumping it in. And if there's one thing that's different about this edition of the Wild in the early going it's a commitment to holding on to the biscuit when they hit the attack zone blue line. It's a shocking about-face for a team that has always carried the flag for dump 'n' chase but the impact of that decision is obvious: 33.7 shots on net this season, third behind only Chicago and Vancouver, up from 27.7 last season and 27.1 in 2012-13. That has Minnesota's offense clicking at a top-10 pace (3.17 goals per game). They've also mastered the art of shot suppression, limiting opponents to a league-low 22.2 chances per game, which has made life awfully easy on Minnesota's keepers. That's not good news for the Rangers (4-4-0), a team that's getting plenty of shots (31.9) but beyond Rick Nash (8-1-9) is struggling to light the lamp (just 2.62 goals per game, 17th in the league). This could be an easy night for the Wild.

Canadiens at Oilers (9:30 p.m. EDT; SN, RDS)

Rexall Place has been a house of horrors for years ... for the home team. But all of a sudden the Oilers (3-4-1) have turned it into a place that visitors should fear. Three straight wins on home ice have them believing thhat this might finally be the year they put things together and climb out of the Western cellar. Goalie Ben Scrivens, who was beer-league bad during the opening two weeks, has been the key to the turnaround, stopping 81 of the last 88 shots he's faced to lead Edmonton to wins over the Lightning, Capitals and Hurricanes. He'll have to be in top form—Carey Price has allowed just four goals in his last three starts for the Canadiens (7-1-0) and has a .959 save percentage over that stretch.

The most intriguing matchup, though, will be the reunion of two former junior linemates. Edmonton's Nail Yakupov and Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk tore up the OHL with the Sarnia Sting before being selected first and third, respectively, in the 2012 draft. Since then, Yakupov has perfectly assayed the role of the enigmatic Russian—a world of talent but incapable of delivering on it with any kind of consistency. To say he is underperforming again this season (one goal, three points) is putting it kindly. Galchenyuk, on the other hand, is developing exactly as expected (seven points in eight games). He's marvelously creative, versatile and hard working in all three zones. It's pretty clear which player has provided more bang for the pick to this point—and that should motivate Yakupov to prove he was the right choice ... for one night, anyway.

Today's must-reads

• Good piece here from Mike Heika detailing the early-season coaching genius of the Stars' Lindy Ruff. No one saw the creation of a Tyler Seguin-Jason Spezza-Jamie Benn superline coming, but it's been wildly effective. Now if only he could conjure up something equally as effective to address his porous defense ...

• This might be the greatest tweet yet in a long line of 'em from Montreal scribe Dave Stubbs: a 1957 document showing what five of the six NHL teams spent on salaries.

• Need some online help to take your game to the next level? Your best bet might be this guy from Kenya.

• Man, we sure do love bad commercials featuring awkward appearances by NHL players. Here are a couple of beauties starring Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Shaw:

[youtube: http://youtu.be/BpmQ89qzZYI]

[youtube: http://youtu.be/RO7GH_uTVuQ]

The numbers game

• All hail the Kings. For the first time in their history, the defending Stanley Cup champions swept a six-game homestand. At 6-1-1, the Kings have matched their best eight-game start to a season.

• L.A.'s That 70s Line is proving to be a classic. Center Jeff Carter (5-7-12, +12) and wingers Tyler Toffoli (4-8-12, +11) and Tanner Pearson (7-2-9, +9) have combined for 16-17-33 and a +32 rating in their eight games.

• Blackhawks netminder Scott Darling, whose 32 saves anchored Chicago's 2-1 win over Ottawa, is the first player from the Southern Professional Hockey League to appear in an NHL game.

What you missed over the weekend

• The Senators, Maple Leafs and Canadiens held a simultaneous national anthem ceremony to honor the soldiers who were killed in recent attacks in Canada.

NHL
Glenn Healy says 'Alex Ovechkin is uncoachable'

• The Sharks and Ducks combined for 165 PIM in San Jose's 4-1 win.

• Barry Trotz defended Capitals' star Alex Ovechin after critical comments by analyst Glen Healy.

• The Florida Panthers announced plans to broadcast three games in Spanish

• Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno left his game against Kings on a stretcher after a scary collision with the boards and a linesman.

• Foligno's teammate, forward Cam Atkinson, is lucky to still have his sight after taking a skate to the face.

 

 

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