One the surprise stories of this NHL season has been the overwhelming dominance of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference, where their 31-7-4 record has them comfortably ahead of the pack. They lead the NHL in Goals For Per Game as well as Goals Against, and seem primed for a deep playoff run this spring.
Or are they? Is it possible that the Bruins, while certainly a good team, have simply “gotten hot” for an extended period of time, and are due for a natural regression that could pull them down to earth? Are they the NHL’s equivalent of Wile E. Coyote, who, having run off the cliff, is about to learn that there’s really nothing under his feet?
Jlikens over at Objective NHL takes a deep dive into the numbers, focusing specifically on shooting and save percentages, to make the case that perhaps the Bruins are overachieving to this point. In particular, he builds upon an article at mc79hockey which argues that over the course of a season, teams will tend to have a combined shooting and save percentage of 100%; if, during an earlier part of the schedule, teams are cruising well above or below that figure, it is likely that over time, they will fall back in line with the general trend. At this point, Boston’s combined Shooting and Save percentages (in 5-on-5 play) come to 1.048, an extreme figure that appears destined to fall.
So take a look, scratch your head for a while, and chime in; are the Bruins playing over their heads or are they for real?
When the Tennessee Titans fumbled away their NFL playoff chances Saturday afternoon, it marked the annual transition in which the Nashville Predators finally can get some attention from the local sports media. Sure, there will be a week or so of ruminating over the Titans loss but center stage is now open to the Preds, and with Steve Sullivan returning to the ice, they’ve got a ready-made story for the media to jump on. The stretch drive towards the playoffs should be even better.
Fresh on the heels of the dramatic 5-3 win over Pittsburgh Thursday night, tonight’s 4-1 win over Chicago has the team headed in the right direction; standing tall in front of their own net, applying consistent offensive pressure and getting just enough finishing to keep ahead of a dangerous Blackhawks squad.
With the Titans hosting the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL Playoffs this afternoon, followed by the return of Steve Sullivan as the Predators face the Blackhawks at the Sommet Center, today is a big one for sports in Nashville. A few things to keep in mind:
1) Tonight’s game is starting at 7:30 Central, with the doors opening at 5:30 for those wanting to avoid the crowd spilling out of LP Field.
2) Fans coming from the Titans game can present their playoff ticket at the Sommet Center box office for $10 off your Preds ticket purchase tonight, some still remain for walk-ups.
3) There are lots of street closings to accomodate the festivities, and Nashvillest has all the scoop.
According to John Glennon at the Tennessean, Sully will skate on a line with Vern Fiddler and Jordin Tootoo, and play the point on the power play alongside Ville Koistinen. Pencil him in for something like 12 minutes of ice time, then, based on how much 5-on-5 action Fiddler and Tootoo normally get, plus a decent amount of PP work.
As a reminder, this game is NOT on local TV, so don’t plan on catching it at home unless you’ve got Center Ice or GameCenter Live. If you want to get tickets but aren’t able to take advantage of the Titans playoff promotion, you can follow this link for discounted seats, just make sure to use the code word “predators” at checkout.
UPDATE: Here’s a look at one fan’s anticipation for Sully’s return.
No, it’s not who you think (more on that later, though). After many months on the shelf, I finally made my return to the rink with the Piranahs of the Centennial Sportsplex’s Upper C league in Nashville. Considering that my best days on the ice were 10 years and 30 pounds ago, I think it’s a roaring success that I’m up and moving this morning. I would like to find a good cane, however.
I knew it would be an interesting evening when I got to the locker room, introduced myself to a few of the guys, and sat down to go through my bag… which I then realized hadn’t been opened since my last game in March. The familiar stench of festering hockey gear hit my nose like Jordin Tootoo, and most of the equipment was still damp. Bad sign, there.
Hockey fans with a hankering for statistical analysis should already have Battle of Alberta among their regular reading material, but today’s look at the tightly-bunched Western Conference playoff push is especially insightful, using a variety of different analytical angles to try and determine who’s likely to make it and who won’t:
A mere 2 games separating 7th from 14th in the WC is also pretty interesting. It’s incredibly hard—impossible, really—to mentally assemble all the various factors that might contribute to any one of those teams getting ahead of the pack or falling out of it. So I thought I would put together a very rudimentary, not-rigourous look at what the Statzis call “arrows”...
Read on for some juicy number crunching from the Great White North…
In anticipation of Saturday’s home game against Chicago, which marks the return of Steve Sullivan to the Nashville Predators, Dan Rosen of NHL.com provides the story behind the comeback that most thought would never happen. After two back surgeries and months of rehabilitation, last summer the consensus opinion held that Sully was done as an NHL player. But then there was a change in strategy…
Sullivan decided to stop going to his rehab facility and instead started going to the rink. He wanted to be around his teammates, work out in the Predators’ gym and “just be a Nashville Predator again, not the guy the boys see in the suit after games.
“I wanted to do everything possible to being a hockey player again.”
But [coach Barry] Trotz informed Sullivan he would be doing it all under the Predators’ watchful eye.
“I’m going to ask our strength coach to push you harder than you ever have been pushed,” Trotz said he told Sullivan. “And, when you think you are coming around I’m going to ask him to push you harder.”
Read on for a great piece that sets the table for an exciting time tomorrow night at the Sommet Center.
Per John Glennon at the Tennessean, the Nashville Predators have placed center Rich Peverley on waivers “with the intent to send him to Milwaukee” of the AHL. Peverley’s nine points in 27 games weren’t enough to keep him on the roster ahead of Antti Pihlstrom, who many had tabbed as the likely player to be let go. The team is clearing the way for You Know Who to play tomorrow night…
Last night’s come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins was sweet on many levels for Nashville fans; the offense finally sprung to life, the power play tallied the game-winning goal, and the team as a unit responded well when all hope seemed lost at the bottom of a 3-0 hole.
But for me, the game was like my Personal Request Night from Barry Trotz; the guy pushed the buttons I’ve been calling for over the last couple weeks, and each one paid off in spades.
Let me count the ways...
From the Nashville Predators:
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a two-year, $1.3 million contract. It is a one-way contract that will pay him $600,000 in 2009-10 and $700,000 in 2010-11.
Sulzer, 24 (5/30/84), currently ranks third among American Hockey League defenseman in both points (29) and assists (22), in addition to being third on the Milwaukee Admirals in each category. Through 35 games, the Kaufbeuren, Germany native has already matched his goal total (7), and is just three points shy of his 61-game performance from 2007-08, his first season in North America. During the month of December 2008, the 6-1, 196-pound blueliner reached the scoresheet in 12 of 14 games, totaling 18 points (6g-12a) in that span, and helping Milwaukee to 12 wins, its most during a month in franchise history.
Sulzer was the last surviving defensive prospect in training camp this season, faring better than AHL All-Star Cody Franson did. The fact that Sulzer’s new deal is a one-way contract speaks to the thinking that David Poile believes he’s NHL-ready, and that the youth movement will continue next year (or perhaps even sooner) on the Nashville blue line.
OK, so yesterday I posted my screed calling for Mike Santorelli to get a shot with the Nashville Predators. Just 13 minutes later, I get an email from the Preds PR staff with a preview of tonight’s tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And what, pray tell, was at the bottom of it?