After witnessing four first round series advance to a game seven, the feeling going into the second round was that there would not be any clearcut favorites, especially in the 2nd vs. 3rd seedings. That hasn’t been the case thus far. Sure, there has been a record number of overtime contests, but the same teams are winning. The trend continued last night, with victories by Tampa Bay, Boston and San Jose.
The Lightning are on a mission and look unstoppable, with seven straight wins dating back to game 5 of their first round series with Pittsburgh. Not many picked them to upset the top seeded Capitals, in four games no less, and become the first team to secure a spot in the conference finals. It has been quite the storied journey for the Bolts, who are making the most of their first playoff appearance in three seasons. Led by bench boss Guy Boucher, the team has established an underdog attitude and a belief that they can’t be defeated.
While last night didn’t decide the series for these two teams, the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks both came within one win of advancing to the final four with victories last night. Boston crushed a lifeless Philadelphia team that has hit a roadblock, virtually shattering all hope remaining. They are only a shadow of their former selfs and will be hard pressed to comeback and win the series. Last years epic rebound after being down 3-0 in the series was a result of a change in team mindset, along with several lucky bounces, but is a stretch to expect two years in a row.
There are teams in every major professional sports league who dominate the opposition in the regular season, but can’t put it all together and get over the hump when it counts. The San Jose Sharks have historically underperformed in the post season, despite annually posting one one of the top records in the league. If any powerhouse is going to be ousted in the second round, it will very likely be the Washington Capitals, who went down 3-0 in their series last night.
Although the Capitals managed to mount an early lead on the Lightning, Tampa Bay slowly climbed back, with solid play from all four lines. After tying the game at three in the latter stages of the third period, Tampa fed off the support of the home crowd and eventually got the deciding goal from Ryan Malone.
Alex Ovechkin had an above average game for the Caps, but lacked offensive support from his line mates. Nicklas Backstrom has been virtually invisible throughout the playoffs and is nowhere near fulfilling expectations set by Bruce Boudreau.
Unless the Capitals do the impossible and win the next four games, the Lightning will move on to the Eastern Conference Chmapionship amongst the NHL’s final four. Hard to believe when the team owner, general manager and head coach are all first timers.
Regardless of what it says on your passport or birth certificate (see: Barack Obama), the atmosphere in the building at the Wells Fargo Centre when Lauren Hart serenaded the Flyers faithful with ‘God Bless America’ was an amazing sight and whirlwind of emotion.
The performance was a fitting tribute to the ups and downs that North America has endured and the ramifications of 9/11. Observing all of the dangers and tragedies in the world forces you to step back and think about what’s really important. Sport is a way for many of us to get away from all of that. However, it is important to be thankful to the men and women who have sacrificed so much in order for us to live freely.
On the ice last night, the Boston Bruins managed to pull out a very hard fought 3-2 win on the back of Tim Thomas, who stopped 52 of 54 shots. The Flyers thrived off the emotion from the national anthem by jumping out to an early two-goal led thanks to James Van Riemsdyk. A balance Boston attack, led by Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly, paced the Bruins back to a tie game.
With two games in the bag and two more wins required to advance, it appears that the Bruins know how to solve the Flyers, but have they overcome the monumental upset from last season or is it still looming in the back of their mind?
On a night where two giants were expected to make good quality comebacks in their respective series comebacks just weren’t in the hockey godsâ€™ cards. Both the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings find themselves down in a hole trailing 2-0 after two games played with Washington losing both games in their own building.
If the old saying of â€œYouâ€™re never in trouble in the playoffs until you lose at homeâ€ is true then Washington is really up the creek without a paddle. What is happening to the Capitals? Is it the Guy Boucher 1-3-1 adaptation of the trap? Is it Tampaâ€™s relentless work on the forecheck, or is it the spectacular veteran goaltending from Dwayne Roloson? Could be the almost perfect playoff PP of the Lightning. Iâ€™d argue that itâ€™s a combination of all four things coming together at just the right time for Guy Boucherâ€™s men. Not to mention the play of Marty St. Louis who currently stands 2nd playoff scoring. His main partner in crime isnâ€™t Steven Stamkos who, although improved, still hasnâ€™t matched his regular season heights. No, that mantle goes to Vincent Lecavalier, their captain who proved very captain like last night scoring the OT game winner. Washington is indeed controlling the play for most of those two games but does so with a distinct individualistic taste. There are not going hard to the net and their stars are trying to do too much, but most importantly, they are not winning puck battles and playing like last yearâ€™s Capitals. We all know where that got them.
Donâ€™t look now but the Sharks are now 6-1 in their last seven playoff games against the Red Wings. What other team can ever claim such dominance? It might be true that all their wins were 1 goal games, but that speaks volumes for San Joseâ€™s willingness to win. This may be a very even matchup, but the Sharks are finding ways to win. Tale of the tape â€“ crowding the crease. Joe Thornton and other grey sea creatures sprayed Jimmy Howard with so much snow he might end up with a fever after this one. An almost perfect game by the Sharks special teams killing off 5 Detroit powerplays before giving up a PP goal and scoring one themselves courtesy of our very own Ian White. Same as with Luongo and the Blackhawks one could say that the Sharks are in Howardâ€™s head now. The most surprising thing for me is the turnaround of Joe Thornton. Heâ€™s been a beast all these years but never really played playoff and Cup winning hockey until this year. Backchecking, playing a good physical game this might not be a 100 point plus Joe Thornton but is the kind of Joe Thornton that has 6 points in his last 6 playoff games and could very well lift the Stanley Cup.
Onto your mashup with Greg
If yesterday’sÂ 7-3 routing of the Philadelphia Flyers is any indication, the Boston Bruins have been uncaged from their former,Â low scoring self. The Bruins team that defeated the Flyers yesterday after was a much different one that slipped out of a relatively low scoring first round series with the Montreal Canadiens. Although the personnel is the same, the Bruins have taken on a different attitude with more ‘swagger’ as they look to capitalize after narrowly advancing past the opening round.
David Krejci and Brad Marchand each scored two goals, while Nathan Horton, Mark Recchi and Gregory Campbell all added a marker. It wasn’t an issue in the first round, but Peter Laviolette is now questioning his goaltender and whether the Flyers can rely on a three-headed goaltending rotation to guide them all the way back to the Stanley Cup finals. After appointing Brian Boucher as his starter prior to the series, Laviolette opted for Sergei Bobrovsky midway through the game.
Neither team has a clear advantage over its opposition, but the Bruins showed signs of pulling away with a more balanced lineup, and more importantly, stability in net with Tim Thomas.
Along with the beginning of the second round of the playoff, the excitement in Leaf land was also brimming for the start of the World Championships in Slovakia. Canada had their first taste of tournament action in a 4-1 victory over the Belarussians, who are captained by Mikhail Grabovski. In the win, all three goal scorers (Eberle with two, Jeff Skinner, John Tavares) are under the age of 20, with the youngest being 18-year old Skinner. Judging from the offensive output displayed by these three youngsters, the Canadians will rely on youthful enthusiasm and speed to overpower their opposition. From a Leafs perspective, James Reimer was solid in his Team Canada debut. He was postionally sound and was very composed in net. What was a refreshing change in his game is his improvement on rebound control. He has clearly corrected some of his weaknesses displayed earlier this season and made a concerted effort to return in top form this fall.
Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn were both steady on the backend, each logging top four minutes. Phaneuf took three minor penalties, but compensated for his undiscipline by unleashing a cannon from the blueline, which eventually led to Jordan Eberles second goal.
Canada is back in action on Sunday against Cristobal Huet and Team France.
The second round of the playoffs got off to a relatively quiet start, with only one game on the docket. Although it’s far too early to determine whether the second round will be as exciting in the first, it is unlikely than anything can top the level of excitement that was on display night in and night out through the opening round.
What we as fans should come to expect from the second round is a hard hitting, tight checking, defensive style. As evidenced from last night’s game between Nashville and Vancouver, the battle between Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo highlighted what was otherwise a relatively uneventful contest.
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals host division rival Tampa Bay Lightning at the Verizon Center tonight. It will be interesting to see how the Capitals defense reacts to the Lightning attack, led by Hart Trophy nominee Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. The Caps only had to limit Marian Gaborik, who struggled for the Rangers, and Brandon Dubinsky. It will be up to Mike Green to step up as a leader on the backend and perform when it matters most.
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com, "Oh the hate!"
What a first round! As a hockey fan, you have to be pleased about what is currently happening around the best sport in the planet. 4 Game sevens, a ton of OT action and the best quality of the play one could possibly imagine. As a Leafs fan you have to be glad about the Habs being knocked out.
Iâ€™m not below giving the Canadiens their due credit. Following Halakâ€™s departure and intense scrutiny Carey Price proved he was up for the task. The series win eluded him but with a .934 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA he truly was the Canadiensâ€™ best player. His technique seemed perfect at times and I have to say that despite Halakâ€™s amazing performance last year, I now believe that Montreal made the right choice with Price. Michael Cammalleri didnâ€™t have the best regular season in the world, but with 10 points in seven games he has more than earned his paycheck. He has also proven to be one of the best playoff performers in the modern day NHL with 32 points in 32 games played so far which of course means heâ€™s clicking at a point-per-game in the postseason. Only Jonathan Toews and Daniel Briere have impressed me more during that clutch period. One last thing, we can dislike PK Subban for being cocky, but the truth of the matter is if he was on our team weâ€™d love him. Arrogant? Yes. Mouthy? And then some. But is he effective? Very.
Photo Credit: Fuzznut.net
Nothing beats a partial Habs GDT on a Toronto Maple Leafs fansite, right? To get more in line with the general sentiments of everyone here and making sure the glass is half full, or at least not half empty (one quarter empty) letâ€™s just call this a Â¼ Boston GDT. Sure, we might dislike Seguin and an certain draft pick, but for a Leafs fan desperate for playoff hockey, thereâ€™s always Kaberle to cheer for. The Hot Stove will also be looking at Vancouverâ€™s possible exit from the playoffs in what I like to call â€œChaos in Paradiseâ€.
It was an interesting turn of events in Chicago – to say the least – prior to Game 6 of Vancouver’s match up with the Blackhawks. With all eyes directed towards the goaltending situation, the answer to the question as to whether or not Roberto Luongo would start was revealed when backup goalie Cory Schneider was the first Canuck to take to the ice. After taking the majority of shots in the warmup while Luongo casually leaned against the boards, it became clear that Alain Vigneault and staff were taking a big risk in not standing by their million dollar man.
The experiment didn’t last long. Luongo came in after Schneider appeared to have injured his right leg from overextension on an attempt to stop Blackhawk forward Michael Frolik’s tying penalty shot goal in the third period of last night’s game. A backhand shot in tight over the right pad of curiously positioned Luongo by Chicago rookie Ben Smith then lifted the Hawks to a thrilling 4-3 OT win. The Hawks became only the third team to force a game 7 after being down 3-to-0 in a series.
The most frustrating part of last night’s loss for the Canucks is that they played remarkably better than the previous two games in which they were outscored by a 12-2 mark. If the Blackhawks manage to pull this off, the status of the future of President’s Trophy winners, most notably in net and that of Roberto Luongo, will be in serious doubt. It’s tough to call into question the core of a team that’s such a regular season juggernaut, but if the Canucks can’t get it done when it matters with this group this year (with a 3-0 lead in this series to boot), when can they?
Nathan Horton’s goal at 9:03 of the second overtime period capped off what was arguably the most exciting contest of the playoffs through the opening week-and-a-half. Both teams traded quality scoring chances throughout the game, but the goaltending battle between Tim Thomas and Carey Price highlighted an intense, as-tight-as-it-gets battle. In particular, the Canadiens’ darkhorse up front is David Deharnais, a 5-foot-8 speedster who created several excellent scores chances for his team and showed strong outside speed. After winning the first two games of the series, Montreal now heads back home down 3-2 with all the momentum shifted Boston’s way. Only time will tell if the Canadiens can thrive with the pressure on and force a game seven back in Beantown.
In afternoon action, the Capitals, as expected, pulled out a 3-1 win over the Rangers and became the second team (following the Red Wings) to secure a birth in the second round. Washington was firing on all cylinders, with a balanced attack and stable presence in net fromÂ ripe 20-year-old Michal Neuvirth. While it’s important to note that this was the Caps’ first post-lockout playoff series win in less than seven games, one series is three less than the goal for a Capitals team who won’t settle for anything short of the Cup and must do some serious damage to buck their post-season underachievers label. Post-lockout, the Capitals have not beat a team other than the Rangers in the playoffs.
Links after the jump.
It was another exciting night on the ice yesterday, with both games being decided in extra minutes. The Sabres lit up the Flyers’ Brian Boucher in the first period with three unanswered goals scored by Tyler Ennis, Thomas Vanek and Marc Andre Gragnani, forcing the Flyers to switch to their third goalie of the series in Michael Leighton. The Flyers mounted an impressive comeback to even the score at three late in the third, but the speedy Ennis wrapped up the game for Buffalo with his second of the contest and third point of the playoffs. It’s safe to say that most people wouldn’t have projected Buffalo to have a 3-2 series lead, with an opportunity to close out the series at home for game six. It’s not over but the Flyers continue to receive the painful reminder that playoff success hinges on strong, timely goaltending.
Despite the loss, the Ducks grabbed all the attention from last night’s game after Bobby Ryan scored an outstanding goal by undressingÂ a stickless David Legwand (x2) and beating Pekka Rinne up high on the back hand. Ryan’s goal is, without question, a strong goal of the year candidate. He could not be able to pull that off nine times out of 10. Jerred Smithson scored the overtime winner for Nashville to lift them to a 3-2 series lead. It was the Predators first victory in a game five in franchise history and the first time that the team has won a playoff game in overtime.
Links after the jump.
You’ll notice some changes around these parts; we’ve upgraded (we like to think) with a new and improved comments section full of fun new features and a slick new interface. You need to do a bit of work to reclaim your account, though. Step by step instructions available here. More explanation with pictures and video here (and some Q&A in the comments).
After scoring a combined 12 goals in the first three games of the series, the Bruins and Canadiens exploded with a nine-goal output in Boston’s 5-4 win last night. A two-goal performance by Michael Ryder, including the overtime winner, along with a balanced Boston attack helped theÂ black and yellow crawl back from a second period deficit to defeat les Habitants and even the series with back-to-back wins in the Bell Centre.
On the west coast, the Canucks had a defensive meltdown, allowing three goals in the opening frame and four through the first half of the game. Roberto Luongo surrendered four goals on 12 shots before getting the yank, in favour of backup Cory Schnieder, who started the second period. Marian Hossa sniped a pair of goals on Luongo, including a breakway marker late in the first. Duncan Keith silenced the Canucks Army in attendance at the Rogers Arena withÂ a four-point performance from the backend.
Two series that looked all but in the bag are now game on as Canada’s remaining teams are anything but safe.
Links after the jump.
Going down by three goals heading into the third period of a hockey goal is usually the surefire recipe for failure. Not on this night. Similar to the San Jose/Los Angeles bout on Tuesday, a big lead seemingly blew away in the wind as the Capitals fought back to tie the game 3-3 with the Rangers to force overtime.
The Capitals had to be more than a little anxious given their recently rocky playoff history but this comeback and the character it exemplified could be a crowning moment for the Capitals in their quest to get over the post-season hump.
The first week of the NHL playoffs has been filled with several exciting showcases, but there is nothing better than witnessing the heart and soul exuded by players every shift in a game that goes to multiple overtime periods. Last night we were lucky enough to witness two double OT affairs unfolding simultaneously on different networks; the first time two games have lasted that long on the same night since 2003.
Links after the jump
Just when they thought they had overcome their woes against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks received a 7-2 butt kicking and suddenly don’t feel so comfortable with a 3-1 lead in the series. History indicates that teams rarely come back to win a series after being down by two games, but weirder things have happened (think Philly vs. Boston last spring).
David Bolland reinforced his former status as a playoff warrior, with a goal and three assists on the night, along with timely face-off wins and strong defensive play. If the Hawks are able to continue to expose Roberto Luongo’s weaknesses and take some confidence from last night into game 5 on Thursday, they could make a series of this yet. Especially if they can get the Canucks rattled, off their game and continuing to want to punch Stalberg in his perfect complexion.
Links after the jump.
The NHL and NBC/Versus have announced a 10 year broadcast and media rights agreement, valued at approximately $2 billion or roughly $200 million per year, a sharp increase from the $77.5 million arrangement currently in place.
On a short-term basis the deal, essentially a 150% per-year increase, is a good one for the NHL, which you may remember did even not have a US television deal in place coming out of the lockout.Â Only six years later, an arrangement of this value represents a major coup for both Gary Bettman and the NHL as a whole. However …
Some saddening news to pass along this evening, as NHL.com reports that EJ McGuire, Vice President of the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, has passed away after losing a battle with cancer at the age of 58. Speaking of McGuire, Bettman notes that “EJ loved hockey, he loved to watch it, he loved to coach it, he loved to analyze it, he loved to talk about it. He was among the pioneers of the use of computers for hockey scouting and analysis, and he did an incredible job of directing the Central Scouting Bureau, and we will miss him terribly.”
I would like to personally give my condolences to the McGuire family. He was a tremendously bright and enthusiastic individual who in the past, had taken time out of his very hectic schedule to speak with MLHS as part of our draft preview series in 2009. The hockey world has lost a truly classy human being.
Goals For in proportion are trending down since lockout
The point system comes into scrutiny earlier and earlier each season. Regulation time stalemates are badges of honor, garnering ‘at least a point’ and driving fans crazy with the â€˜loser point.â€™
Aside from minor differences, the point system doesn’t really matter. It’s not about points and systems.
It’s about motivation.
The following is a brief summary of a research paper that was presented this past weekend by Michael E. Shuckers at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, MA.
DIGR: Defense-Independent Goalie Rating
Goaltenders are generally analyzed and rated using save percentage as a key indicator of performance.Â One of the common issues that crops up when using save percentage as an analytic metric is comparing one goaltender against another. Varying degrees of the quality of defense from team-to-team, and the distribution of shots faced by each goaltender, create a large margin of error for goaltender-to-goaltender comparisons.
Michael E. Shuckers, of St. Lawrence University and Statistical Sports Consulting, has done some fascinating research into ways in which these issues can be resolved so that save percentage can be a more effective comparative statistic.Â What he devised, and subsequently presented at the conference, was the concept of DIGR (Defense-Independent Goalie Rating).
At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, MA (fellow bloggers, I highly recommend you check it out next year), I had an opportunity to attend a panel discussion regarding “The Decision” — whereby the NBA’s LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to team up to join Dwayne Wade in Miami — and its impacts on other areas of the sporting world.
Moderated by Michael Wilbon of ESPN, the panelists included former NBA player and current Celtics’ colour commentator Donny Marshall, San Antonio Spurs’ GM R.C. Buford, NBA and NFL agent Mark Bartelstein, and Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke.
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