Tampa Bay just defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 to win their semi-final four games to three. They will be in the Stanley Cup finals. The problem is that they are not an elite team by my longstanding necessary but not sufficient definition of an elite team. An elite team must have elite players (though a group of elite players is not necessarily an elite team). They must have at least three players who are on a track to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. Also because of the importance of goaltending, they must have a top level goalie who may or may not be included in the list of Hall of Famers.
Tampa has no players who would make the Hall of Fame if they retire right now. Steve Stamkos looks like he will likely get himself there in the next few years but he isn't there yet. At this point his career numbers of 276 goals and 498 points do not measure up, but he has scored above point per game rate so far.
Early in the third round of the playoffs, I picked Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks as the playoff MVP at that point. Perry has since slipped to fifth overall in playoff scoring. He has been passed by teammate Ryan Getzlaf in the playoff point race. When I picked Perry, I thought he had passed Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks for the MVP lead. Keith has now regained the lead.
Duncan Keith leads all defencemen in points with 16 points in 16 games. He leads all players with a +11 +/- rating. Keith had a great game last night with three assists and a goal he saved. Keith has logged a ton of ice time. He leads the playoffs with 31:49 played per game.
Keith has been the best defencemen in the NHL in the last several years. If he can add a Conn Smythe Trophy to his resume that will go a long way toward his getting that respect. Of course another possibility is Chicago loses in game seven against Anaheim and Keith's playoff run ends without a trip to the finals. Likely I would pick a new MVP early in the finals. The Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the MVP of the playoffs and there is no need for that player to make the finals. The Conn Smythe winner has never gone to a player who did not make the finals. I doubt that Keith would be that guy if Chicago fails to make the finals, but it is an interesting thing to consider.
The round robin portion of the Memorial Cup has completed today. It is the Canadian Hockey League championship played by junior players. This year the tournament is held in Quebec City. It is the last hockey event to be played in the Colisee where the Quebec Nordiques once played.
There are a few things I do not like about the Memorial Cup. One is that the host team makes it into the tournament. The other three participants are the winners of the three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League - the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Why should a team make the tournament merely for hosting it? It can allow an unqualified entrant and it leads to controversy should that team win the tournament when it did not make the tournament in its own right.
The other significant problem is that often the tournament ends with a tie in last place which puts all four teams in the playoffs. It makes the round robin not very important. Sure the round robin winner immediately makes the final but it makes a round robin not seem very important. It is possible that the last place team in the round robin could win the tournament. This year no team is eliminated after the round robin.
Here are the round robin results:
I haven't seen sufficient discussion of this fact. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose a playoff game in regulation. Their two losses to Chicago came in multiple overtimes and their loss to Calgary was in overtime as well. They swept the Winnipeg Jets. That is quite a run. How long will it last?
I have thus far stayed out of the Mike Babcock affair, but I thought I would say my piece.
In the first place, I am not sure that Babcock's move to Toronto is the biggest off-ice personnel move that occurred that day. Boston announced that Don Sweeney would be their new GM. A general manager has more ability to set the longterm success of a franchise than a coach does and thus likely Sweeney will have more longterm importance than Babcock.
Mike Babcock is possibly the best coach in the NHL. If he isn't the best, he is close. I pick him as the Jack Adams Trophy winner this year. He cannot win it because he isn't an announced finalist. The voters tend to pick the coach of the most improved team instead of the best coach.
Obviously Toronto will be improved with better coaching. Peter Horachek did not have a good run as the Leafs coach. Replacing him with someone who is average will be an improvement and Babcock is well above that.
The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs and fired their GM in Peter Chiarelli. That quickly began to look like a mistake when he was almost immediately hired by the Edmonton Oilers to be their GM. You have almost certainly made a bad move if you fire somebody who is immediately such a good candidate that another team races to hire him.
Boston needed a new GM. The problem is that it is hard to find a good GM. They do not grow on trees. Giving up Chiarelli with no plan one who to replace him is not smart. Boston basically admitted it when they hired Don Sweeney to replace him,
The second round of the AHL playoffs completed tonight. This is my summary of them. Here was my first round summary.
Manchester Monarchs defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins four games to one. Manchester is the Los Angeles Kings farm affiliate and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton belongs to Pittsburgh. This was not a particularly close series. Manchester's offence was led by Jordan Weal who is tied for the playoff lead in points. Michael Mersch and Brian O'Neill also made significant offensive contributions. Colin Miller led their defence. Jean-Francois Berube was their top goaltender. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's offence has been led by Conor Sheary and Andrew Ebbett. Derrick Pouliot led their defence. Matt Murray did the majority of their goaltending.
In the second round I picked Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks as the playoff MVP at that point. Keith has slowed down since then. He has no points and is -1 in his last three games. Thus I am going to pick a new MVP. Given his hat trick last night, Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning seems like a logical choice, but I am not going in that direction. I select Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks as the MVP at this point.
Perry has 15 points in 10 playoff games at this point. He is tied for the playoff lead with a +8 +/- rating. Johnson in contrast has one more point in five more games played. He has a league leading 11 goals, which is four more than Perry. He has a +4 +/- rating. The main difference is that Perry has a significantly lower games played total and hence a much higher points per game. Perry is much more productive offensively.
The medal round was completed today at the World Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic. I have earlier reported upon the preliminary round and the quarterfinals. Here I will look at the semi-finals which were played yesterday and the medal games today.
Here are the results:
SemiFinal - Canada 2 Czech Republic 0. Canada dominated this game outshooting the Czech 41-23. Goals were scored by Taylor Hall and Jason Spezza. Mike Smith had the shutout for Canada. Ondrej Pavelec was the losing Czech goalie. This puts Canada in the gold/silver game and the host Czechs into the bronze/4th game.
On June 29th, the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class will be announced. There are three first year eligible players who should be inducted in Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Chris Pronger. I predict all three get inducted. There might be some issue regarding Chris Pronger in that he hasn't officially retired so that the Philadelphia Flyers can circumvent the salary cap. I don't think the Hall of Fame committee will make him wait - but I could see the logic in it being debated. The Hall of Fame can induct four male players. This would be a good opportunity for a previously overlooked player to be added as a fourth. I predict that Mark Recchi may be that fourth. In an ideal world, I think Sergei Makarov might be a better candidate as a fourth but given the number of times he has been overlooked, I think Recchi is a more likely fourth selection.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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