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TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Dec 20, 2013, 4:07 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders Getty Images

Saturday: Calgary at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET)

You know it’s a banner weekend when a Flames game tops the TGIF list. The Penguins are obviously the reason to watch this matinee. They’ve only lost once in their last 12, and that was the one they blew in Boston. On Thursday, Pittsburgh beat Minnesota, 5-2, with a lineup that was missing Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, and Beau Bennett. Aaaaaaand cue the Calder Trophy buzz for 19-year-old Olli Maatta. (Misguided as it may be, considering he won’t be getting so much ice time once the Pens get healthy.)

Saturday: Colorado at Los Angeles (4 p.m. ET)

Per LA Kings Insider, I really liked this Darryl Sutter quote on how goalie Martin Jones could possibly go undrafted: “I think there are lots of guys that do that. You know what, basically not everybody gets to see everybody, and a lot of times when they see these guys, [it’s] the third game they’ve played in three nights. It’s very different, right? Kids are traveling on the bus for 14 hours. You might not see ‘em. You see him one night, and he has a rough night. The next night he’s great, and you know what? There’s a lot more luck in it than anything.”

Note: Jones played for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen from 2006-10. Meaning he was playing junior hockey in the Saddledome for pretty much the entire time Sutter was the general manager of the Flames.

Saturday: Detroit at Toronto (7 p.m. ET)

Their first meeting of the season, and their last before the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Both sides have been struggling of late. The Wings won their first in seven last night, barely beating Calgary, 3-2 in overtime. The Leafs, meanwhile, have just three regulation wins in their last 23 games. Yes, injuries have been a factor for both teams. And the Wings’ record would look a lot better without that 0-for-6 mark in the shootout. But the standings care not for excuses, legitimate or not.

PS — get a load of Detroit’s schedule post-Winter Classic:



Saturday: New Jersey at Washington (7 p.m. ET)

Per Extra Skater, here are the top eight teams in the NHL in terms of Corsi (five on five, score close):


One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong…

How can the Devils be such a good possession team (say the stats) and have such a mediocre record? Because it was the same story last season when they missed the playoffs. One theory says the Devils shoot the puck whenever they possibly can, a tendency that, theoretically, would make the data a less effective proxy for possession. (Quite possibly the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written.) Another theory is a much simpler one: the Devils haven’t received very good goaltending compared to the rest of the league (something I wrote about earlier in the week.) Other potential theories include not being very good shooters, surrendering too many prime scoring opportunities, and being downright unlucky. (Coach Pete DeBoer subscribed to the latter theory last year.)

Saturday: Dallas at San Jose (10:30 p.m ET)

In terms of entertainment value, the Stars have to be right up near the top of the NHL. I mean, this goal they scored last night versus the Canucks…

…was a nice goal. Unfortunately, only 15,644 were in the building to see it. Maybe once the Cowboys are put out of their misery, the hockey team will get some attention in Big D.

  1. johninpa - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Maatta has looked awful good. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the other d-men get healthy.

    • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      he will get bumped to the bottom pair again, probably right alongside niskanen still.

    • goalieguy37 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      When Letang’s been healthy Maatta’s defensive partner. He’ll still play a lot:)

  2. comeonnowguys - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    What about Vancouver’s Stanley Cup Final against Chicago tonight? :)

    • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Not sure what you mean by a final, but a good game between two clubs that have been fairly hot of late.

    • micasa81 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      I don’t get what he means either, but *come on now guys* (ya get it, ya get it?), why are you leaving out a Van-Chi game in favor of…well, I was going to say the Pit-Cgy game, but really it’s a more exciting match-up than any of the games listed, save perhaps, Tor-Det on account of 24/7.

      • Jason Brough - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:49 PM

        TGIF only does games on Saturdays and Sundays. Always has, always will.

      • micasa81 - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:19 PM

  3. jpdoc26 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Editor’s note: James Neal played last night

    • Jason Brough - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:14 PM


      • jpdoc26 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        No problem. Thanks for posting my daily reading material at work!

  4. thailer35 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    “One theory says the Devils shoot the puck whenever they possibly can, a tendency that, theoretically, would make the data a less effective proxy for possession. (Quite possibly the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written.)”

    Just let it flow through you, Jason. It’s like the dark side of the force.

  5. agentdw - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    he’s referring to this game being Vancouver’s championship game, cuz they wont be coming anywhere close to sniffing the REAL SC Finals… 😛

  6. salmon90 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Oh..that’s super witty then. I’ll go get my riot gear ready. (is it a Chicago thing to put those smiley faces at the end of your sentences?)

  7. c9castine - Dec 21, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    maata is the real deal. kid is going to be one heck of a defenseman and I’m not talking about the kind that scores 70 points and wins a norris. I’m talking about the real kind of defenseman that should be winning norris trophies.

    btw, speaking of, if people were serious about the Norris trophy, Matt Niskanen would be getting consideration halfway through the season.

    2 goals, 14 assists for 16 points. +20. 2 PPG and 5 PPP. 2 GWG…plays in all situations. he’s been stellar and to me is more of what a real top defenseman should look like.

    im a huge letang fan, but he hasn’t played top tier defense since 2010-2011, right around the time he broke out offensively.

    • dirt2013 - Dec 21, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Niskanen a free agent after this season? If so he is (1) having a great season at the right time and (2) gone after this year as they will not be able to sign him and stay under the cap.

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