Around The Rink – Wednesday, October 13th

Another day is upon us and with it a semi-filled schedule of NHL joy awaits. Many eyes figure to be turned towards Pittsburgh this evening as we’ve got a full-blown Bizarro World situation in effect with the Leafs coming to town. That’s not the only game involving a Canadian team and oozing with intrigue, though. All times listed are Eastern. Some day you’ll all begin to conform to our Easterly ways, I’m just doing my part to help things along.

7:00 pm

New Jersey @ Buffalo

Jason Pominville isn’t expected to play for Buffalo, while the Devils appear ready to go to battle with just 16 skaters after adding Adam Mair to the mix yesterday. Both Mair and Henrik Tallinder make their first appearance in Buffalo with their new teams after leaving the Sabres after last season.

NY Islanders @ Washington

Washington figures to be without forward Marcus Johansson, meanwhile Michal Neuvirth should be in goal once again for the Caps. The Islanders, meanwhile, look to build off of their 6-4 win over the Rangers from Monday. The Isles had an inspired effort against their big rivals, but expect life to be a little bit harder having to try and handle Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

7:30 pm

Toronto @ Pittsburgh

If we told you one team would be 2-0 and the other 1-2, we’d bet you’d think that the Leafs were starting off the same way they always do by losing while Pittsburgh was busy winning. Guess again, smart guy. See what you get for assuming? You get embarrassed.

Anyhow, the Leafs have gotten their wins by stopping power plays (Leafs are 7-7 on the PK) and getting solid goaltending from Jean-Sebastian Giguere while Phil Kessel does that whole goal-scoring thing. The Pens aren’t playing badly, they’re just getting eked out a bit. Their win over a short-handed Devils team on Monday might be what they needed to get things going.

Tampa Bay @ Montreal

Well, well, well… Hello, intrigue. The Lightning spent the better part of their off-season taking what they wanted from the Canadiens organization in the form of head coach Guy Boucher and both of his assistant coaches who came from the Habs AHL affiliate as well as centerman Dominic Moore and goalie Dan Ellis (although he was a Hab in name only during the off-season). If anyone is going to know how the Canadiens work, it’ll be Boucher. How that translates on the ice we’ll get to find out. Tampa won their only game of the season over Atlanta 5-3. Montreal is 1-1 beating Pittsburgh but losing to Toronto opening night.

8:30 pm

Nashville @ Chicago

Last year’s first round playoff foes square off for the first time this season and Nashville will be going into the game shorthanded in goal. Starter Pekka Rinne is out and Anders Lindback will get the start for the Predators. Chicago will be without the services of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson serving the first game of his two-game suspension. Expect this one to be a hard-hitting affair.

10:00 pm

Vancouver @ Anaheim

Oh the Anaheim Ducks. They’ve had an abysmal start to the season and things don’t figure to get any easier against the Canucks. At least this time, the fightin’ Ducks have home ice to back them up as this will be their home opener. While the Ducks have been brutal defensively, they’re at least making life miserable for their opponents in other ways by punching everything that moves and fighting everyone. That sort of action doesn’t scare the Canucks. If the Ducks can’t contain the Sedin twins, it could turn into another long, feisty evening for the water fowl.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.