June 19th, 2013 — Yes really
Joe Sakic is on the record as having said the Avalanche will not take defenseman Seth Jones, who grew up an Avalanche fan with the number one pick. Instead a team with multiple top five picks at forward will take another forward at the first pick.
10.3: The Avalanche have decided to use the Edmonton Oilers as their model for rebuilding a franchise.
9.3: As Sakic can tell you from personal experience the game is played today exactly the way it was in 1995 and having top flight mobile, two way defenseman has never won anyone a championship.
8.3: A secret cabal of owners led by the shadowy and diabolical Jeremy Jacobs have intimidated the Kroenke brothers into keeping the Avalanche a bubble team forever.
7.3: Sakic bets they will easily be able to successfully sign all of Calgary’s RFA defenseman to offer sheets.
6.3: Seth Jones didn’t have the good sense to be born a Canadian so they don’t want him.
5.3: Smooth skating, big bodied, right shooting defensemen have almost no value in the NHL.
4.3: Jones won’t be old enough to go to Vegas with the boys for a couple years and there is no sense in disrupting a locker room that produces so well on the ice.
3.3: Matt Hunwick has threatened to sit out if his status as time on ice leader for the team is threatened.
2012-13 TOI stats
3: Patrick Roy only agreed to coach the team if they drafted exclusively from the QMJHL.
2: The UFA market featuring franchise cornerstones like Mathieu Roy, Cam Barker, and Jordie Benn will more than suffice to push them into the Stanley Cup Finals next season.
1: The plan with a little luck and no improvements on defense this year is to be able to draft Connor McDavid first in 2015.
June 19th, 2013 — Uncategorized
With three games in the history books, the Stanley Cup Finals reaches the halfway point of possible games tonight. Each team has seen the other throw the best they have out there, each team has had players head down the tunnel and not come back.
While faceoffs are a key part of this, they aren’t the only component. The Blackhawks are not winning enough battles along the boards. They have plenty of big strong guys who should be able to go get the puck from smaller Bruins players like Ference, Marchand or Seguin, but we haven’t seen that. If you lose both the board battles and the faceoff war, you’re not going to win many games unless the other team has a truly bad goalie.
Passion versus Control:
Halfway through the first Kaspars Daugavins may have taken the stupidest penalty of the Bruins post season with a flagrant elbow he’s lucky didn’t see him sent to the dressing room. At the end of the third period of game three the nasty climbed out of the alleyways and onto the ice. Zdeno Chara and Bryan Bickell locked up and exchanged some leather and lather. Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand went a little further and dropped the gloves before quickly joining them there.
Will we see a cleanly played series devolve into something where stupid penalties and reprisals break up the flow of the game. So far we’ve seen long periods of whistle free hockey, not just because of the abbreviated playoff rule book, but because both teams have played clean. If the emotional storm we saw in the fading minutes of game three continues, especially with frustration mounting for players like Toews who had a bit of a meltdown during the Red Wings series the penalty box could get quite cramped.
Rebounds and Follow Ups:
We’ve seen both goalies control a lot of the shots they face, when they haven’t that’s when we see goals. In game two, the first period goal on Rask was one that bounced off his glove twice in a sequence where he had to make five or six saves before allowing the goal. Game two didn’t see much in the way of rebounds, and even less of Blackhawks in the right spots to get to them.
As is often the case in the playoffs, it isn’t the star players doing most of the five on five scoring. This series has seen the Bruins new look third line of Paille-Kelly-Seguin has given the Blackhawks fit. It combines two of the Bruins three fastest forwards on the wings, and the solid passing, strong faceoff ability, and focused determination of Chris Kelly. If the Blackhawks have to pull Keith or Seabrook off of other duties to cover this line, it means they are likely opening up another can of worms.
At five on five, the Bergeron line has generated chances, but not much finish, likewise the Krejci line has had chances but little finish since Lucic’s two goals in game one. The Bruins need to take advantage of the Blackhawks relatively weak road game and perhaps send these two lines over the boards against different defensive pairs.
Injuries and Endurance:
We’ve seen Marian Hossa sit out a game, and Nathan Horton depart in overtime in this series. With thirteen periods of hard hitting, tight checking hockey played these two teams have already played more than four games of ice time against each other. We know neither of the two big bodied right wings is at 100%, we’ve also seen enough hits, bodies crashing into the boards or net, and simple fatigue to know there are likely to be two or three other players on each team who wouldn’t be playing if this were a regular season game.
The shell game Quenneville played with the Hossa injury and the Smith substitution can probably fill in one or two names for us there. For the Bruins, if we see Daugavins back in the lineup after some pretty poor play, you can’t help but wonder what type of shape Jordan Caron and the other black aces are in.
June 18th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Getting out of the first round of the playoffs in any sport require some skill, some grit and not just being better at being average than a few other teams. The difference between the winners and losers in the second round are a lot easier to identify than the what separates ninth and tenth place teams from seventh and eight.
The Los Angeles Kings finished the regular season half a dozen points out of the division title, and without home ice advantage. In doing so the defending Stanley Cup champions had a three position improvement year over year. Most notable among the other improvements was finishing the season as a top ten NHL offense, in their Cup winning season despite a late surge coinciding nicely with the rumors of Dustin Brown’s trade availability and the acquisition of former Philadelphia Flyer and then Columbus Blue Jacket Jeff Carter they had finished 29th.
In the first round of the playoffs the Kings played a bruising round against the Saint Louis Blues and got through a pretty even series in six games. Then they met the Blackhawks. Their home dominance disappeared, and there was just one major factor in all four losses; speed.
The lack of speed overall on the Kings is usually compensated for by great coaching and players who stick to a system every bit as structured as Claude Julien’s recipe for Bruins success. While the Kings were mostly in the right place all series long, they were getting there steps behind the Blackhawks who have speed to burn.
Overall, the Kings may be the slowest skating team to make the playoffs. Of all the top six forwards and top pairing defensemen only Doughty and Carter are above average in speed. The bottom six forwards and lower pairing defensemen don’t offer much more speed. The simple fact is you can’t play the puck if you can’t get to it, and you can’t defend against someone who beats you to the net.
Be it through trades, the draft, promotion from their AHL affiliate the Manchester Monarch’s or signing key free agents, if the Kings want their crown back while there core is still together and highly effective, they need to add speed. As we’re seeing in the Stanley Cup Finals, even the Chicago Blackhawks are vulnerable to fast moving forward lines. Unless they can field at least one line where all three forwards are above average speed, they are going to have trouble getting any further into the playoffs than they did this year, even with the excellent play of the roster.
Click for parts one and two
June 17th, 2013 — What We Know
This years Stanley Cup finals present an almost unique chance to judge the two conferences based purely on the interactions of the top team from each. With the compressed schedule, and no out of conference play, all of the leagues stats are really skewed by being entirely against fourteen teams with no real long road trips or extended homestands. There’s was simply no way to judge which teams were best even with all the advanced stats, until now.
The Chicago Blackhawks handled the Los Angeles Kings with relative ease in five games. The Boston Bruins ran over the Pittsburgh Penguins in four. Neither team possess much of a powerplay, and both are really solid on the penalty kill. They are the last teams standing. With ten periods of Stanley Cup Final hockey played, standing is probably a little more difficult than anyone would have expected after just two games.
What we know:
We know, the BlackHawks are much faster as a team than their opposite number.
We know the key players of the Bruins are fitter, as evidenced by minute counts than their opposite number.
We know the Blackhawks bottom six won game one.
We know the Bruins bottom six won game two.
We know that despite very similar results on things like the penalty kill, the two teams do things a bit differently with Chicago’s squad using speed to haul the puck out of the zone, and the Bruins using the body to impeded pucks and progress.
We know that despite the vigorous physical play of these two squads, they care capable of playing remarkably disciplined hockey.
Despite the expectations of nearly everyone superpests Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand have largely been quiet and workmanlike on the ice.
We know that with a combined 47 giveaways through two games, there will be plenty of opportunities for offense, and two unhappy coaches.
We know that with 179 shots on net through two games, the goalies haven’t had to work too hard to stay involved.
We know this is going to be a very memorable Stanley Cup final.
June 17th, 2013 — Feature: Yep They Said It
Normally in order for me to take notice of a non NHL tweet, they have to be doing something interesting, like training camps or playing in a championship. It is a sad reality, that there are too many tweets even for someone like me to read.
And then there are tweets that come to the universe via the wonderful hands and mind of whomever handles the Twitter account for the Sherwood Park Stealth of the Alberta Mens Roller Hockey League.
@AMRHL_Stealth doesn’t miss a stroke getting to the hard facts.
June 16th, 2013 — Feature: If I told you in September
This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.
- … the Anaheim Ducks would go up on the Detroit Red Wings and fail to close the series after dominating the west nearly to the Blackhawks level and bow out ingloriously in seven.
- … that the Pittsburgh Penguins would score just twice in four games against the Boston Bruins.
- … the Toronto Maple Leafs would end their playoff run with a better powerplay success rate than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- … the Chicago Blackhawks would be 14th overall in faceoff % and yet holding their own against the #2 Boston Bruins
- … the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals would take ten period to play.
- …after potting five shorthanded goals each in the regular season, the BlackHawks and Bruins would have just one a piece through their 19th and 18th games respectively.
- … that Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand would combine for zero penalty minutes through the first ten periods of the Finals.
- … of the first rounders in the Finals (Toews, Kane, Jagr, Seguin, Frolik, Hossa, Horton) Daniel Paille would finish the first two games with the most points.
- …through 19 games, several of them with overtimes Jonathan Toews would have just 1 goal and 9 points.
- … the two defensemen with the most goals in the finals would be Johnny “Nicholas” Boychuk who had just 1 goal in 44 regular season games, and Torey Krug who has played just 11 post season games.
- … Bryan Bickell would lead all BlackHawks in hits with 68 and shooting percentage with 21.6%.
- … only one top six forward for the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews would be above half a blocked shot per game.
- … the oldest player in the Finals, Jaromir Jagr would have been drafted into the NHL before half a dozen of his teammates and opponents were born.
June 15th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Game one showed how even these teams are. It took almost two full games for one to pull out the win. Game two, where both coaches and players have seen the other side in action promises to be even more exciting.
1: How effective will Nathan Horton be?
Horton’s ability to score big goals, and quietly contribute away from the puck and with little fanfare has been a big part of the teams success. His familiarity with his linemates, and their ability to play smart, physical hockey is of enormous value.
2: Will Marchand stepup and pester?
During game one, Marchand had a very quiet game. Despite 34 minutes of ice time, and being one of the fittest members of the team, he didn’t hit much and never seemed to get under anyone’s skin. Drawing players like Toews off their game might be a bit difficult, but as we’ve seen, Duncan Keith is susceptible to agitation, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see his teammates intervene to prevent another suspension.
3: Does the Bruins bottom six have a pulse?
In any normal game, the Boston Bruins can count on their second six of forwards going out and playing a useful game. Unfortunately in game one they all looked flat. Daugavins who is playing in the Cup Finals for the first time in his life, Peverley who was on the big stage two years ago looked flat with bursts of bad, and Chris Kelly may just have had the worst game of his Bruins tenure. Winning without these guys contributing is a near impossibility.
1: Where will they be early in the game?
In game one, despite eventually out-shooting, out chancing and outscoring Boston, their first period was noticeably lack luster. Their second period was only so-so. If the go at the Bruins like they did the last twenty five minutes of regulation for game one from the drop of the puck they have a solid shot at winning in regulation, and taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
2: Can they lower their giveaways?
In game one they are marked down for almost four times as many giveaways as their competition. You can’t do that and expect to win. Worse, your key players can’t be the major culprits. For the Blackhawks game one saw Keith and Seabrook commit as many giveaways as the entire Boston roster.
3: Can we spread out the shooting please?
The monstrously long game one produced a staggering amount of shots, and shot attempts. But a close look at the numbers shows a modestly disturbing fact: almost 43% of the teams shots came from three players. Of those three, only one had a goal. Worse, despite fifty combined minutes of ice time, neither Kruger nor Rozsival actually recorded a shot on net.
1: Can we please stop the Dave Lewis tribute?
Three bench minors in one game for too many men on the ice? Really? And these actually are two of the best coaches in hockey, who have both been to the big dance recently and won. This shouldn’t happen, even more so since there were probably one or two other ti
June 13th, 2013 — Uncategorized
There are a lot of teams that need a lot of help. Some of them have more than enough depth at one position. Some teams just can’t draft a position to save their lives, and others have been taking the same commuter rail as Ozzy Ozbourne for decades. For the most part these players have more value elsewhere than on the team who currently holds their rights.
If only this guy could stay healthy. He’s almost certainly a Norris quality defenseman equally capable in all three zones, a great skater, and the focal point of all bad luck for the New York Rangers. He’s been concussed by his own brother, taken shots to the face, and likely had his roster spot taken by one of the New York Rangers younger, cheaper nearly as good defenders. The team really needs to get by draft, trade or free agency a couple forwards with grit. Staal is a hell of trade piece. A team like the Oilers, Avalanche, or Red Wings would be able to offer up a substantial reward.
The Kings mostly learned how to play, and play well without him last season. He’s got one year left on a modest deal. He hits like a freight train, and the Kings worked Muzzin, Martinec, Voynov and the rest hard. A team that needs physicality and dependability would be well served to snatch up this rugged blueliner. The Kings need to add speed up front if they want to win another Cup while there core is young and healthy.
Moving Stastny might require taking on a bad contract, or possibly retaining some of his salary. At his pay grade it is unlikely the Avalanche resign him as he hasn’t led the team in scoring since the 2009-10 season, and has likely been edged out of a top two line center position by Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. There are a lot of teams with different (read effective) systems that could reinvigorate the 44th pick int he 2005 draft and inspire performances closer to his World Championship level of play.
Yes, another defenseman who might be better off elsewhere. The Jets need to get better depth up front, and Bogosian is apparently looking for a little bit more money than the Jets 2.0 ownership is willing to pay him. He’s big, he’s mobile he’s got good offense, he shoots right, he’s got almost 300 NHL games experience and he’s only 22. A deal involving him should be counted as a major deal. He might or might not ever reach the level of Doughty or Pietrangelo, but even if he doesn’t I can’t think of an NHL blueline that couldn’t fit him in.
The speedy, skilled forward for the Islanders clearly isn’t part of the teams long term plans. With a year left on his entry level deal, and him not turning 21 until September the right wing is still a true prospect who might intruige another team enough to part with something the now playoff conteder Islanders need, like perhaps a goalie prospect or as part of trade deal for a quality NHL starting goaltender.
This guy has had several chances to make it in the Bruins system, and he plays well might even say really well away from the puck. However he’s got absolutely zero confidence playing in the NHL right now. If he can get into a system and be told at the start of the season “the third/second line right wing slot is yours” and count on getting 12-14 minutes a night on a regular line plus a little penalty kill time he can almost certainly still be a twenty goal man, penalty killer and regular NHL player. The Bruins are just a bit too deep at forward for him to get that luxury right now.
June 13th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Hockey is the ultimate team sport. You play together, you stand by each other in the locker room and on the ice. Good days, bad games, great plays and long days. And the veterans look after their younger, newer team mates. Especially the rookies. Or at least most guys do.
For goaltenders the most imporant players on the ice are there defensemen. These guys are the last line of defense before the the goaltender, and the first guys in line to get the puck out of the zone. A third pairing defenseman may see as much time a top nine forward. When it comes to guys goalies should want to keep happy, after the head coach, defensemen should head the list. Most goalies go out of their way to credit their defense when they have good games. But that’s not the case for Tuukka Rask.
We all remember the game he was pulled from a few years ago when he was berating the defense and slamming his stick after a puck deflected off a defender going out to block a shot. And who can forget Rask’s heroic tantrum in the AHL where he through milk crates all over the place and carried on, and on, and on. That at least was in the heat of the moment, and was a few years ago.
Tossing Krug under the bus like he did is inexcusable. The goal he’s talking about is the second of four goals that went by him. The OT goal was a double deflection. But Rask was clearly out of position on one goal, and one other went in the place anyone who has watched Rask play goal knows to put it. There were just twelve minutes left in regulation and the Bruins still had a lead after the turnover and goal.
If Chicago goes on to win the series, I’m not sure what we’ll be saying, we won’t be talking about superior speed as when they beat the Kings, we won’t be talking about them being notably more skilled as when they beat the Blues, but we could just be talking about one set of guys in uniform playing like a real team, and the other not.