One of the more surprising things in the playoffs so far is that goaltending has not been able to carry any team deep into the playoffs. The remaining teams do not have elite goaltending. If you made a list of the five best goaltenders in the game today, it would not include any of the remaining goalies in the playoffs. The remaining goalies are mid-level goalies at best. That is an alarming realization. How can these be the best teams in the league when none have elite goaltending?
Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes is probably the best goalie still in the playoffs. He won the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy, but it was a case of when in doubt give it to the goalie and not a case of him being deserving. Since then Ward has been a solid goalie but he has never wound up in any series Vezina races.
Since the Hall of Fame inductees for the year are announced quickly following the Stanley Cup playoffs, I like to discuss the probable inductees at some point during the playoffs. Today is as good a day as any.
There are five players who are first time Hall of Fame eligible who I think should one day be inducted. In order of the strength of their Hall of Fame credentials they are: Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille and Dave Andreychuk. Since a maximum of four players can be inducted in any given season, it is clear that at least one of those five will get overlooked this year. Dave Andreychuk is the likely candidate.
It was suggested in the comments of my semi-final playoff predictions that referees have been helping Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins win in the playoffs. This is presumably because Crosby is the best North American player in the NHL and arguably the best player in the game. The NHL’s marketing is significantly tied to Crosby and the Penguins. I decided to look into these allegations and see if there might be some truth to them.
The most obvious comment that somewhat discredits this allegation is the Alexander Ovechkin should have been suspended for his knee-on-knee hit on Sergei Gonchar. If the NHL was favoring Pittsburgh, the non-suspension of Ovechkin certainly makes no sense at all. That is clearly the biggest incident that blows a hole in the theory.
The Memorial Cup, the CHL Championship tournament, began tonight in Rimouski, Quebec. Four teams are fighting for the Memorial Cup. They are the WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets, the OHL Champion Windsor Spitfires, the QMJHL Champion Drummondville Voltigeurs and the host Rimouski Oceanic. These teams play a round robin tournament and then a playoff to see who wins the cup.
Here is a look at the four teams in the order of likelihood I think they have of winning:
The second round of the playoffs is complete. I had a 2-2 record on my predictions. Add this to my first round predictions which were 5-3 and I have an overall 7-5 record. I am keeping above .500, but it is nothing spectacular.
Let’s travel onward into the semi-finals. Here are my predictions:
The second round of the Calder Cup in the AHL is completed. Here are the first round results. Now I will look at the second round.
Providence Bruins defeat Worchester Sharks 4 games to 2 Providence is the Boston Bruins farm club and Worchester is the San Jose Sharks affiliate. The Sharks were a tough opponent. They took a 1-0 and 2-.1 lead. In the end they couldn’t hold off Providence. Providence was pushed by offensive performances by Martin St Pierre (who is 2nd in playoff scoring), Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka. Tuukka Rask offered good goaltending. He has a .943 saves percentage and a 1.72 GAA. In Worchester, Riley Armstrong and Dan DaSilva led the offence, with Patrick Traverse providing strong defence. Thomas Greiss was their goaltender.
Earlier in the second round, I picked Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks as the playoff MVP. At the time he was leading the playoffs in points. He has been passed by Alexander Ovechkin, who has a significant lead in goals (10 to 4 right now with Anaheim still playing in the third period of game six). Ovechkin leads the playoffs in points with 20 and is tied for leads in goals (with 10) and +/- (+11). This comes after a regular season where he has likely won his second straight Hart Trophy. Ovechkin has established himself as the best player in the NHL today. He is likely the most dominant player the NHL has seen since Mario Lemieux. Enjoy watching him in in his prime; it will be something hockey fans talk about for a long time.
The International Ice Hockey Federation announced what appear to be tough new rules to deal with players who are under contract in one league and jump to another league. They have announced the played would be banned from playing for four to six months, the player would be banned from international competition for one to three years and the offending club would be banned from the transfer market for three to 24 months. These rules do not come into place for over a year (June 1st, 2010) which is after the 2010 Olympics.
That means that these rules will not be in effect this summer - meaning there may be disputed player transfers this summer as there were last summer. These rules also seem unenforceable. The IIHF was unable to do anything when Alexander Radulov jumped from the Nashville Predators of the NHL to Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL. They were unable to prevent him from playing. Why do they think they can prevent players like him starting in 2010?
Last week I updated the World Hockey Championships preliminary and qualifying rounds. The playoffs have been played now in the tournament. Here are the results from the 2009 World Hockey Championships from Switzerland:
Russia 4 Belarus 3
This was a much more back and forth game than expected. Belarus jumped out to a 1-0 and 2-1 lead before Russia evened the score and took the lead for good on a third period goal by Ilya Kovalchuk (one of his two points). Russia’s other two point man was Alexander Radulov. Belarus had a strong game from Oleg Antonenko, who scored three points. Andrei Mezin manned the Belarus goal, keeping his team in the game. Russia began the game with Ilya Bryzgalov in goal, but pulled him for Alexander Eremenko.
We are well into the second round of the playoffs and I thought I would take a look at the best defenceman thus far through. Several defenceman have been playing very well including Chris Pronger, Sergei Gonchar, Scott Niedermayer and Brent Seabrook, but one guy stands out in front of the pack. That man is Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. It isn’t unusual to see him in front of the pack; he has six Norris Trophies that show he is often in front of the pack of defencemen. So far in the playoffs, Lidstrom is scoring at better than point per game rate (9 points in 8 games). This points him in the offensive lead among defenceman, even though several have more games played. His +5 +/- rating is among the best in the playoffs as well.
It was a regular season where Nicklas Lidstrom looked like he might be showing his first signs of decline. He is unlikely to win the Norris Trophy this year (despite a nomination) and is no longer his team MVP in the regular season. He suffered through elbow tendonitis for much of the season. He recently turned 39 years old and it is easy to believe that his best days are gone, but what we have seen so far in the playoffs shows otherwise. Nicklas Lidstrom has had a very good playoff so far and has been the top defenceman in the playoffs.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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