The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. This should be a grave cause of concern for the boys from the steel city. As a whole, Craig Anderson is statistically having his worst playoff run in terms of save percentage. Yet he is still in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lifetime the Park Ridge Illinois native has a .929 playoff sv% and that’s a pretty staggering number considering some of the teams he’s played behind.

This season his total is .920, and there’s been an enormous spike in the last three games where he’s seen an average of 33 shots per game, and had final numbers of .949, .964, and .966. Against the Rangers he had no consecutive games with a save percentage over .900, and he still dragged the Senators past their New York series. The Rangers put a lot more shots on net than the Penguins have managed. The only game of that series in which he faced less than 33 per game was the one he was pulled.

With Craig Anderson heating up, and Bobby Ryan looking like the guy who justified the “still there at two” appellation Brian Burke bestowed on him in his draft year, that’s alarming all by itself. Mike Hoffman has also been a pretty consistent points producer, and him going more than two games without getting on the score sheet is a rarity. Jean Gabriel Pageau has also proven to be an unsolveable riddle for defenses in the second season potting goals against the two previous goaltenders, both Vezina winners, and Fleury doesn’t seem to have an answer either.

Even leaving aside Ryan the three time 30 goal scorer, and both Pageau and Hoffman, the second scariest reason after a hot Anderson the Penguins should be worried comes in two bodies. Dion Phaneuf who seems to finally have learned not to take himself out of position for his earth shattering hits, and Erik Karlsson who has yet to produce a point in this series. Karlsson entered the Eastern Conference Finals one of a handful of skaters and the only defenseman with more than a point per game production. I don’t think it’s likely he’s going to stay off the board much longer.

It’s not a secret that the 2003 NHL entry draft is one of the strongest drafts in history. It is arguably the strongest. The first skater taken is just a fistful of games from his 1000th NHL game, the guy taken 205th is on track to play his 800th NHL game before the season expires. I’ve made the argument you could put together a team from this draft that would beat a team from any other draft class.

Goaltending is the only position you can say this class might have as a weakness. The goalies taken in 2003 to have played serious time in the NHL are; Brian Elliot, Jaroslav Halak, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard, and Marc-Andre Fluery. All of these guys have played at minimum in the high three hundreds for games, and all have a sv% for their career in the teens. While I think Halak is capable of tremendous play, Crawford and Fluery are the guys I’d pick.

Defense is where it starts to get tough. Running quickly through the names draft, I came up with twelve defensemen who have played some really good hockey in their careers. My top four should surprise no one: Shea Weber and Ryan Suter as the number one pair. Next over the boards would be Dustin Byfugelin and Dion Phanuef. The physicality, offensive, and defensive ability of this foursome makes it almost irrelevant who the other guys are.

Matt Carle, Tobias Enstrom, and Marc Methot could all be expected to play the 12-14 minutes left over from the top top pairings admirably, but didn’t make the cut. Mark Stuart who’s very good in his own zone if lacking offensively, is clearly, if sadly starting to break down after roughly a bajillion hits and blocked shots. Looking at the third pairing, or arguably the 1C pair, you have to ask what the players have the other guys don’t. One is a gimmie, and that’s championships which means Brent Seabrook. The other is a powerplay specialist, which brings us to Brent Burns. Seventh defenseman is a little tougher, but I can comfortably go with Kevin Klein and sleep well.

I honestly won’t even try and number the top three lines, there’s just no point. You have Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Joe Pavelski who it can be argued could all be your number one center, and all of them are worth talking about. Ryan Kesler, David Backes, and Nate Thompson are three more guys you have to look at for penalty killing, three zone play. and unadulterated ability to get under people’s skin. There’s also some guy named Ryan Getzlaf, and that’s just guys who have played a largely top nine position in their careers. Brian Boyle is worth considering for a pure checking line or penalty kill line.

The first gimmie on right wing is Corey Perry, even if he is consistently erratic in his scoring. Dustin Brown would have to be ironed out in practice as to which side he’d play, but thanks to the versatility of the centers, one or more of them will slide to a wing to fill a void.

The left side gives us Zach Parise and Matt Moulson

L to R the lines could look something like this:

Moulson – Carter – Pavelski

Parise – Bergeron – Perry

Brown – Getzlaf – Kesler

Boyle – Staal – Eriksson

Extra: Backes

In a best of seven series, I can’t see any draft class matching this one.

So there’s a fascinating article up over at CBC.CA. Tony Care has taken it upon himself to blame Dion Phaneuf and his contract for all that is wrong with the Leafs, or at least that’s how it reads.

According to the article Phaneuf isn’t a number one defenseman. Let’s take a look at that. Let’s ask three questions about that one. First; Can you name 30 or more better defensemen in the NHL? Second; Does Phaneuf contribute to the the Toronto Maple Leafs like a number one defenseman? And third, is he playing in all situations?

The first question is an obvious: NO. Can you name five better defensemen, sure easy as pie. Can you name ten better defensemen, probably. What that means is that Dion Phanuef isn’t an elite defenseman. But then again there are probably only about five or six of those in the NHL at most at any given time.

How much does Phaneuf contribute? Last year on a team that was middling for total offense, Phaneuf , who isn’t an offensive defensemen was still comfortably in the top 50 defensemen in scoring. He played a solid 23:33 of TOI a night with over six minutes a night on special teams. Roughly half of the players who averaged more TOI than Phaneuf last year did not make the playoffs. The highest sv% on the season or a Toronto goalie was .923 for Bernier over 55 games James Reimer in 32 games was at .911, the on ice sv% for Phaneuf last year was .928. That’s only slightly above what Bernier’s was, but significantly over where Reimer who played roughly 40% of the season managed.

When you climb deeper into the advanced stats, and look at zone starts and zone finishes, his raw offensive numbers get even more impressive, as does his on ice save percentage. Phaneuf started 61.2% of his shifts in the defensive or neutral zones. He finished just 53.7% of shifts outside the offensive zone. Ask your financial planner if they can consistently get you 7.5% increases on your investments, just be prepared to be laughed at. Then there’s the quality of competition he’s facing. He was 17th in the NHL last year for QoC Corsi, that’s ahead of the last three players to be awarded the Norris Trophy, and pretty much everyone else.

On the third count we have much of our answer earlier on. Phaneuf played more than 200 minutes more than the next Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman last year. His 17:27 of even strength time was second on the team. His 2:49 of shorthanded time was likewise second on the team. The 3:17 of powerplay time was first overall. No one on the team combined for more hit and blocked shots than Phaneuf either.

Would Phaneuf get less grief if he were an offensive minded player like Ottawa’s Karlsson or Pittsburg’s Letang, maybe, maybe not. Would the Toronto Maple Leafs have finished as high or higher in the standings with either Letang or Karlsson last year; unlikely.  Phaneuf is doing the heavy lifting defensively almost unaided, it doesn’t matter how many more goals either of those two scores, with as mushy as the rest of the lineup is defensively, it would be a not less for the Leafs to exchange him for that type of player.

This feature will run approximately every two weeks each season comparing a well known player to leagues newest crop of rising stars.

NHL rookies are making the biggest adjustment to their play, and their awareness of the game since they got their first stick and puck. Making the jump sometimes takes more than one try. While the Calder is almost exclusively an award that goes to forwards, this years crop of talent is intriguing, and blessed with American, Czech, Canadian and other candidates that should make every voter take until the very last moment to set their ballot.  This year a once remarkable rookie who has turned in a hall of fame career was chosen to be the measuring stick. Teemu Selanne stated before the season began that this would be his NHL farewell tour.

Through 11 games Teemu Selanne has a line of 3-4-7 and is a -1, and is averaging 14:34 a night. One of his goals is a powerplay marker. He’s currently on the injured reserve.

 

Forwards:

  • Sean Monahan is making a name for himself in a Calgary Flames uniform. Them 19 year old is one of the bright lights in a season that has the Flames low in the standings but still without a regulation loss at home. His 11gp 6-4-10 line is impressive not just for the pace, but the consistency. Some of the other top scorers for forward had a couple huge games and several very quiet nights. Monahan has just steadily produced.
  • Alexsander Barkov who was taken four spots before Monahan in the draft sits behind him in the points race, but the Florida Panthers player is one of the youngest players in the NHL. His 12gp 3-4-7 points total includes two powerplay goals, and one game winner gives him the team lead or a share of it in both categories.
  • Alex Chaisson is a right wing for the Dallas Stars who has served notice that his patient waiting for NHL ice time is over. He trails only All Star Jamie Benn and trade center piece Tyler Seguin for goals in the lonestar state, and is tied with Seguin for goals with totals of 5-4-9 through 12 games. At over 17 minutes of ice time a night he’s playing a big part for Lindy Ruff and company and doing it in all situations, he averages 1:23 a night shorthanded.
  • Tomas Hertl has had the best single night of any of this years freshman class. His four goal night ignited controversy among the segment who think no one should show signs of enjoying their job. The San Jose Shark leads all rookies in scoring with 8-3-11 +8 in 12 games for the NHL’s points leading team.

Goalies:

  • Frederick Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks has edged his way into an already crowded crease. His three appearances have all been wins. He’s one of a handful of Denmark natives in the NHL, and his .944 sv% is enough to make people sit up and take notice.

Defensemen:

  • Torey Krug leads all rookies and all NHL defensemen in powerplay goals. His 4-2-6 line is complimented by a +3 that his him shouldering aside his larger teammates for ice time. Averaging just under 18 minutes a night the Boston Bruin leads all rookie defensemen in scoring.
  • Seth Jones who was inexplicably passed over three times at the NHL draft is doing a remarkable job for the Nashville Predators. At 24:42 a night in TOI he’s playing more minutes than well known workhorses Zdeno Chara, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, P.K. Subban and Mike Green. His 2:55 of shorthanded TIO a night tell us he’s certainly not being playing sheltered minutes. His 2-3-5 have him second in scoring from the blueline among the rookies.
  • Jacob Trouba’s averaging over 4:08 a night in short handed time on ice. That staggering number has the Winnipeg Jets defenseman 3rd in that category behind only Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators and Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings, both of whom broke in to the NHL last century. He owns a 1-12 line with 11 hits and 12 blocked shots in 8 games played. The 9th pick in the 2012 draft is currently on the shelf after being injured sliding into the boards.

Yesterday’s top tidbit on twitter was the release of the NHL’s anonymous player survey by Sports Illustrated detailing the player voted most overrated players in the NHL. While some of the players on the list were there unfairly, like say Bouwmeester who’s stats have slipped, but a look at his minute distribution reveals a big difference in how he’s been used in Calgary vs Florida. Others likes Scott Gomez or Jay-Bo teammate Olli Jokinen there’s not much defense for.

Oddly, the man listed as most overrated is also in a Toronto Maple Leaf’s uniform. In fact the Maple Leaf’s captain Dion Phaneuf, Phaneuf is one of the few players on the team who is finally having the type of season his booster club thinks he has every year. Perhaps most injurious to Komisarek was the right hook Maple Leaf’s General Manager Brian Burke through in defense of the Captain via Twitter:

Dion overrated? Are you kidding! Players who voted in this poll can meet w/Dion in Ottawa at the All-Star Game, where he's a starter!
@LeafsBB20
Brian Burke

No mention is made of Komisarek. No defense at all. Is this a not so subtle indication that Burke too has noticed the spiraling and consistently sub-par and sub-paygrade play. To console himself, Komisarek too mounted the Twitter pulpit and had this to say:

Two different polls...which is better #10 or #4 lol? http://t.co/NJzDjFuZ or http://t.co/lNUtprSm
@mkomisarek
Mike Komisarek

in which he provided a (broken) link to a womens magazine article that says he’s cute. He later corrected it. But like his disastrous and one sided feud with the Milan Lucic, perhaps this shrill attempt to distract from his play and the missing esteem of his peers is something he should just leave alone.