Friday, June 10, 2011

Doubting Thomas Or Loser-ongo?

Shoot The Puck!
Tim Thomas is approaching Kirk McLean's '94 record for saves in a single playoff run. This is incredibly positive news for the Canucks' chances. You remember '94, McLean faced all those shots in a heroic playoff effort but the New York Rangers won the Cup.

Have a gander at the list of the top five in this odd category:
1. Kirk McLean (Van '94) 761 saves
2. Tim Thomas (Bos '11) 700
3. Ron Hextall (Phil '87) 698
4. Olaf Kolzig (Wash '98) 696
5. John Vanbiesbrouck (Fla '96) 685

Notice anything common among the four goalies not named Thomas? Yep, none of their teams won the Cups in those years. Eventually all that rubber catches up with you and you may even win a Conn Smythe like Hexy did in '87 but odds are you can't win it all.

Keep shooting the puck and eventually Thomas will give up more than one goal in 60 minutes of he has in all previous series in 2011. Just pray the goalie at the other end gives up one less is all any Canuck fan asks.

From Orr to Park to Chara?
Yes, Mike Gillis's plan to recreate the Carolina Hurricanes '06 Cup winning defence-by-committee may fail vs. the usual have a Norris Trophy type D-man and ride him to the Cup. Yet is Zdeno Chara so "dominant"?

Being able to shut down the Canucks' top scorers, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler, can be answered more as follows--Dominik Hasek, Jr. It's simply the Zach GalapagoDaskalakis lookalike (go see my movie Hangover II playing now in a theater near Rogers Arena! Tuesdays--$7.50 all day!) in the B's nets is playing as well as the Dominator in his prime.

Chara and his D-partner, Dennis Seidenberg, are a collective +24 in the playoffs, but they better be buying Timmy Boy a few dinners should the silverware end up in Boston.
Daniel has had 16 shots on goal in the four games and, even if skewed by his eight shots in Game 1, that's still a pace that would place him 4th overall in the regular season for shots on goal.
Kesler has ten shots on goal so far through four games. That's pretty much his pace in the last series vs. San Jose. Maybe he is playing hurt but again maybe Thomas is making the saves that Antii Niemi did not, especially in those last two games of the Sharks' series when Kesler had a key goal in each game.

Woe Is The Powerplay
This often repeated mantra that special teams are soooooo important in the playoffs is ignoring the fact that the vast majority of games are played five-on-five. Powerplay goals are few and far between when teams get to the Final because most of the time the goalies teams face are actually very good. We won't even get into how good the penalty killers themselves are on good teams.

So then why don't the offensive players dominate?
Simply put, defence wins championships and has even when the Air Hockey Oilers or Flying Frenchmen dynasties were in vogue.
Yes, it'd be nice to see the Canucks score on the powerplay but more importantly is how teams play at even strength and NOT giving up backbreaking shorthanded goals at the most inappropriate points in the games.

Let's have a unscientific, but randomly fun look at how "important" the powerplay is in the Final:

'87 Final
Edmonton Gretzkys vs. Philly Keenans

Philly outscored Edmonton on the PP 6 goals to 4 but gave up 3 shorthanded Oiler tallies.
At even strength the Oil outscored the Illka Sinisalos 15-11 in the series.
The powerplay was a factor in Game 2 with the Oil's lone PP goal in regulation being part of a 3-2 OT win. Other than that is was pretty much a wash in each game. Philly even potted its lone goal in Game 7 on the PP yet lost 3-1.

'91 Final
Mario Penguins vs. Not Dallas Stars
In the series Pittsburgh scored 7 powerplay goals but gave up 3 shorthanded goals.
Minnesota scored 3 PP goals and gave up 2 SH goals.
Yet the statistics don't tell the whole story as 3 of those Pens' PP goals were in the Game 6 clincher which was an 8-0 blowout.
Go back further, with Minny up 2-1 in the series they outscored the Pens 2-0 on the powerplay yet lost Game 4 by a score of 5-3.
At even strength the Pens outscored the Stars 27-16 in the series.

'08 Final
Detroit Zetterbergs vs. Pittsburgh Crosbys
The Pens outscored the Wings on the PP 5-4 in the series but gave up a shorthanded goal so that's a wash.
The Winged Wheels outscored the Flightless Birds 12-5 at even strength.
Game, set and Osgood to Detroit.

'09 Final
Datsyuk Wings vs. Malkin Penguins
Pens again outscored the Wings on the PP 4 to 3 plus this time the Pittsburghers potted a shortie of their own. This was a decided advantage in Games 3 and 4 where the Penguins' special teams helped win both games 4-2 as they scored that shorthander plus 3 of their powerplay goals vs. the Wings in the two home games.
Yet in the decisive Games 6 and 7, neither team scored on the powerplay in consecutive 2-1 wins by the Pens.
In the end at even strength the Wings outscored the Pens over the seven games 13-9 yet lost.

Draw your own conclusions, but of these four high profile Finals featuring winning teams that had the most offensive talent in the NHL at the time, only the one Final in 2009 could you say the powerplay was significant enough a factor to swing the series.

So far in the 2011 Final the tally is:
Boston 3 PP goals to Vancouver's 1.
Boston has scored 2 goals shorthanded.
At even strength Boston has a 9-4 advantage.

Even if Vancouver scored two more powerplay goals than Boston in each game, well, it'd still be 2-2. Just in case you're wondering.

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