The qualifying round of the World Hockey Championships have completed today. This is the second phase of the tournament. My recap of the preliminary round is here. The qualifying round has teams in two groups of six playing a round robin.
Here are the results:
1. Czech Republic This team is undefeated so far in the tournament and has not required overtime in any game. They have 19 goals scored and seven against. They have been led offensively by Patrik Elias, Milan Michalek and Tomas Plekanec. Ondrej Pavelec has provided very good goaltending.
Among mainstream media members, Scott Cullen of TSN writes about stats more than most. A lot of his columns are one’s that I like, but he has twice wasted him column on nonsense of team’s records with and without players. Here is his column this year and his column last year along with my responce.
The problem with this kind of statistical analysis is it is far too simplistic. Hockey is a team game and one player (often a role player with limited ice time) has little impact in whether or not a team loses. Even an MVP player is only worth about 6 games over the course of a season. This makes the vast majority of this statistic noise which is entirely meaningless.
Of the teams that made the second round of the playoffs, no team has scored fewer goals in the playoffs than the Vancouver Canucks. They have only 2.27 goals per game. This puts them ahead of Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers but neither survived the first round. In the regular season, only New Jersey had fewer goals per game than Vancouver has had so far in the playoffs.
In part this number is low because the Nashville series has been a defensive battle. Vancouver has scored nine goals so far in 15 periods of hockey (4 games including three overtime periods). Even in the Chicago series, Vancouver failed to score more than four goals in any given game. In six of their 11 playoff games so far in the playoffs, the Canucks have been held to two goals or fewer. This is alarming because the regular season Canucks led the NHL in goals. Their game has changed in the playoffs and this is a negative change.
The road to the Stanley Cup is often filled with failure. A look through history shows that teams - even future dynasties - often lose in series that they were favored to win before they win their cups. This is to be expected. A best of seven game series is a short window to look at a team. If a couple bounces go the wrong way a strong team can fall into a deficit that is often too big to overcome. Luck and the way a puck bounces can determine the outcome in a short series.
We often feel that there is an urgent need for changes to be made to fix the perceived problems from an unlucky playoff loss. The Washington Capitals are an example of that. They lost in the second round of the playoffs this year. That alone makes them one of the eight longest lasting teams in the playoffs. Twenty-two teams did not get that far. They won the East Conference title this year. They also were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a series of one and two goal games, all of which the Caps could have won with the right bounce or two.
The so-called World Hockey Championships are underway in Slovakia in the cities of Bratislava and Kosice. This tournament, though interesting, is misnamed because many of the best players in the world are playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and are thus absent from the “World Championships”.
The tournament opens with the sixteen teams organized into four groups of four teams each for the preliminary round. These groups each play a round robin. The three top teams in each group advance to a qualifying round.
Here are the preliminary round results:
Two stories came out yesterday and these coupled with earlier stories have the NHL cracking down on some of the fun side stories in the playoffs. The first is the “green men” in Vancouver. These are two fans with seats next to the visitor’s penalty box and Rogers Arena. They are dressed in green spandex suits that cover their faces and they have become local celebrities for taunting opposition players. These “green men” do handstands against the glass and have taunting posters. The NHL is trying to get them to “tone down” their act. They will be taking their act on the road and will be attending games three and four in Nashville.
Another story from yesterday is that the NHL wants to prevent Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins from drinking Coca Cola on the bench as he did in game seven versus the Montreal Canadiens. He was caught on camera drinking his beverage of choice. Since Pepsi is an NHL sponsor this too is a problem that must be cracked down upon.
In the NHL coaches are hired to be fired. In fact five teams (at least) are replacing their coach from last season before the new NHL season begins. Coaching stints with a given team are short. Only two current NHL coaches held their current jobs before the lockout. They are Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators and Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres.
Ruff is an interesting story. He is the longest serving current NHL head coach. He was hired in 1997. Recently he signed a contract extension and is expected to remain in Buffalo for the next several years.
Ruff is a pretty good coach. In 2006, he won the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. In 13 seasons as Buffalo’s head coach, he has made playoffs 8 times. That isn’t a bad record, but in most markets he would have been fired long ago.
The nominees to the important NHL awards have been announced over the last little over a week. The NHL Foundation Award for charitable contribution is still outstanding, but we can ignore that one as it has little to do with the on ice hockey game. As the season concluded I made my award picks if I was given a ballot to vote. I want to compare them to the actual nominees and make picks on who will actually win the NHL awards.
Calder Trophy - Logan Couture San Jose Sharks, Michael Grabner New York Islanders, Jeff Skinner Carolina Hurricanes These were the best rookie forwards in the NHL. I am not surprised, but am upset that John Carlson of the Washington Capitals was overlooked. He was by far the best defensive player among rookies and played a huge role on the eventual East Conference championships. As far as goaltending goes, Corey Crawford was the best rookie goalie, but I don’t think he deserved a nomination. I would have picked Carlson to win this award, but the voters seemed far more interested in looking at offensive numbers. I expect Skinner wins as he was the top scoring rookie this year, played on the east coast and was highlighted in the NHL All Star Game. I think the overlooking of Carlson is a poor choice and shows a pattern of selecting forwards only when an award is open to multiple positions.
The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is over. I made my first round predictions and picked 6 of 8 successfully. It’s not a bad performance, but there is always some luck involved in making successful picks. Both series I picked incorrectly went seven games and had one goal games that could have easily gone the other way and led to the series being won by the other team.
Here we go with the second round predictions:
The first round of the Calder Cup playoffs concluded last night. Here are the results of the eight first round series:
Portland Pirates defeat Connecticut Whale 4 games to 2 Portland is the Buffalo Sabres affiliate and Connecticut is the affiliate of the New York Rangers. Portland has been led offensively by Corey Tropp and Mark Mancari (who was called up to the NHL during the series). David Leggio has provided goaltending. Connecticut has been led by John Mitchell and Chad Kolarik (who returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out the last month of the season) and defenceman Wade Redden. Dov Grumet-Morris provided goaltending.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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