By Garrett Perry, Nicholas Carafa and Curtis Ng
Each day, THN gives you five things to watch out for in the games ahead. There are nine games on tap tonight.
The Reimer and Bernier Show
No one could have guessed the Leafs’ goaltending situation to play out as well as it has so far this season, but that’s what you get when you have strong competition in the crease. Despite ranking 29th in the league in shots allowed per game at 36.2, Toronto’s goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier have anchored their team to third place in the Eastern Conference standings. On Saturday it was Reimer that backstopped the Leafs to victory. Facing a potent Washington Capitals offense, Reimer turned aside 49 shots, before denying three of four attempts in the shootout to earn the victory. The Manitoba native owns a 10-6-2 record, a league-best .947 save percentage and a 2.10 goals-against average. Equally impressive is Bernier, who owns an 8-6-1 record while sporting a .934 save percentage and 2.19 GAA that places him among the league’s best as well. Coming off one of the best starts in his career, expect Reimer to get the start tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but regardless of who’s in net for the Leafs, they will give them a chance to win.
Evgeni Malkin has only scored one goal in his last 11 games, but get ready to have your mind blown. Other than that one goal, he’s managed 15 assists – I think it’s safe to say this guy’s on fire. Teams have only managed to keep him off the scoresheet in six of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first 24 games. Not bad for a guy whose torrid pace has him sitting fourth in league scoring (26) and first in assists (22). Malkin and the boys head into Boston tonight for the first time since they were swept in the Eastern Conference final last year and the Bruins were able to keep him and Crosby off the box score. Now if the Pens want to leave TD Garden with two points, they’re going to need Malkin and Sidney Crosby to figure out way to beat Tuukka Rask.
The New Jersey Devils were burned by Ilya Kovalchuk’s “retirement” in the offseason, but they’ve managed to stay in the thick of the Metropolitan Division with a couple of ageless wonders. At 41 years old, Martin Brodeur could be playing for another five years, at least with the way he’s managed to keep the Devils in games, while 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr is leading the team with 18 points. When the Winnipeg Jets come to town tonight they’ll have to deal with a Devils team that has gone 6-3-1 in the past ten games and as of right now, the Devils are just outside a wild-card spot by three points.
Hot in November
Something’s gotta give as the NHL’s two hottest teams in November faceoff. The Blues are dominant at Scottrade Center, with a 10-1-2 record. Minnesota owns an identical home record, but unfortunately, that won’t matter tonight. Their road record is a mediocre 5-4-2. In terms of offense, the Blues have the slight edge in November with a 41-34 advantage. They’ve let in almost an identical number of goals this month: the Wild have allowed 24 to the Blues’ 25. And goaltending? Josh Harding has an excellent .939 save percentage and a miniscule 1.48 goals-against average. The problem is that he was injured during warmup on Saturday, so he’s questionable for tonight. Niklas Backstrom earned the win in his first game back after missing a couple weeks with a concussion. Jaroslav Halak’s .906 save percentage is nothing to write home about, but his 2.34 goals-against average is pretty good. It’s almost a goal more per game than Harding, but what goalie doesn’t have bloated stats compared to him?
No fuel in tank for Jets
After winning four straight games in mid-November, the Jets have now lost four in a row. They’re in New Jersey tonight to face the Devils and kickoff a six-game road trip. The Devils are back home after taking two of three in California. Winnipeg is 5-4-2 this month, but a big storyline around this team is the droughts that many of its top players are going through. Evander Kane hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games – his last goal was almost a calendar month ago, when he scored against the Dallas Stars on October 26. Kane is tied for fifth in team scoring, but more is expected from him. Blake Wheeler also hasn’t scored in 11 games dating back to October 29 in St. Louis. Devin Setoguchi hasn’t scored in seven games, but his streak is nothing compared to Mark Scheifele’s. The 20-year-old rookie scored in the Jets’ season opener against Edmonton, but has gone 24 straight games without a goal. Before notching an assist in Saturday’s overtime loss against Minnesota, he had previously gone eight games without a point. Luckily for Winnipeg, the Devils aren’t exactly lighting it up either. Aside from Jaromir Jagr and his nine goals, nobody else on the team has more than five.