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There is no doubt that the goaltender is the single most influential player on any hockey team and rivals that of a quarterback in football for how much impact the position has on the game. Although having good goaltending does not guarantee success, not having it is a recipe for failure.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a prime example of this over a seven year stretch in which they have not made the playoffs. Some will argue that the Maple Leafs just haven’t iced a good enough team to finish in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, which is a debatable point. What is not debatable is how inconsistent and below average their goaltending has been over that time period.
When James Reimer jumped into the Maple Leaf goal in the 2010-11 NHL season and posted an impressive 20-10-5 record with a 2.60 goals against average and a .921 save percentage it looked like the Maple Leafs finally had there answer in goal. Reimer looked so good in that he was rewarded with a 3 year deal at $1.8 million per season. Unfortunately Reimer suffered a concussion early in the season and never appeared to recover.
I continue my analysis of the 2nd round Stanley Cup playoff series by analyzing the playoff series between the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles (LA) Kings.
Both teams won their opening-round series in five games. While the Blues erased their 10-year series-winning playoff drought in impressive fashion by dispatching the San Jose Sharks, the 8th-seeded Kings pulled off the Stanley Cup playoff’s biggest upset by eliminating the top-seeded and President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
The Caps-Rangers series begins tomorrow and the Flyers-Devils match-up starts on Sunday.
I take a look at both series… No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals — In the closing days of the regular season, many thought these teams would be meeting in the first round. Now, just about two weeks later, they’re facing off in the second round—the third time in the last four years that the Caps and Rangers have played each other in the postseason. In order for the Caps to earn a third consecutive series victory against the Rangers—and reach the conference finals for the first time since 1998 and only the third time in franchise history—they need to stick to the game plan: keeping the scores closer to 2-1 than 4-3 and milking Coach Dale Hunter’s system for all it’s worth.
No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils – The Flyers have been sitting around for almost a week wondering who they’re going to play next, while the Devils are coming off a double-overtime, game seven thriller last night. The Flyers spent six games beating up the Pittsburgh Penguins on the scoreboard, in the penalty box and pretty much everywhere else. That won’t be the case against the Devils, who are far better defensively than the Pens and won’t fall into the Flyers’ traps.
There is more on both series if you are interested, continue reading at fanspeak.com.
With the conclusion of the NHL Draft lottery last week, reality has begun to set in for Toronto Maple Leaf fans as they were not able to move up to the first pick in the upcoming draft. I thought I would take some time to look back at past fifth overall picks to see what kind of player the Maple Leafs might expect to get with this draft position.
I reviewed the last 33 NHL drafts from 1979 - 2011 and there are some very recognizable names that have been drafted with the fifth pick including Scott Stevens, Jaromir Jagr and Phil Kessel. There are also some names that I have never heard of like Daniel Dore.
In performing my analysis it was important that I made things as statistically driven as possible. To do this I developed the following player rating criteria:
100 – Star player: top 3 forward, top pair defenseman or an elite starting goalie.
50 – Good player: top 6 forward, top 4 defenseman or a starting goalie over multiple seasons.
25 – Role Player: forward or defenseman with 200+ games or a goalie with 100+ starts.
10 – Depth Player: forward or defenseman with 51-199 games or a goal with 51-99 starts.
5 – Minor League Player: forward or defenseman with 1-50 games or a goalie with 50 or less starts.
0 – Bust: drafted player with zero NHL games.
It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks were two of the best teams in the Western Conference — if not the league. Just last year, in fact, the Sharks were the No. 2 seed in the West and the Wings were No. 3. The Sharks eliminated the Wings in the Western Conference semifinals in seven games before losing to the Vancouver Canucks in the conference final. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the Canucks in another post.) This year, though, the Wings were the No. 5 seed and the Sharks had to wait until the last couple days of the season to clinch a playoff spot — as the No. 7 seed.
Another regular season is behind us; before the playoffs begin, I thought it may be fun to share what 6 months of toil have taught me.
Anyone can win the Southeast division - and probably will. Thanks to the Panthers, it’s now the only division that all 5 of its members have won since the lockout. Like many, I had assumed that Dale Tallon’s collection of third-line stars would tread water in anticipation of younger stars emerging around them; their success this season speaks volumes not to Tallon’s genius but to the coaching ability of Kevin Dineen, a long-time candidate who I’m guessing several teams are now casting rueful eyes at.
When Brendan Burke, son of Toronto GM Brian Burke, was tragically killed in a car accident 2 years ago, it ignited a debate about homosexuals in hockey and sports and general. This debate raged everywhere from the mainstream media down to the blogs like this one. Whenever there was a post alluding to Brendan Burke or openly gay pro players, it seemed to always result in heated rhetoric on both sides. Despite being an extremely contentious issue, while still only in college, Brendan himself came out as openly gay and began to fight very publicly for acceptance of gay players within the game.
Restoring the red line will just open another can of worms, unless the other changes to the neutral zone are also reversed.
When they opened the game (supposedly) eliminating the 2 line pass, they also shortened the neutral zone by moving the blue line 2 ft closer to center ice**. They have also changed the faceoff positions. With the 2 line pass, the faceoff position was where the pass originated, but they have since changed the rules regarding the position of the faceoffs.
What would they do now..? According to today\‘s game logic a faceoff caused by a 2 line pass would be deep in the zone (faceoff circle right next to the net).
**At the same time, they moved the goal line back 2 ft. Increasing the defensive zone by 4 ft and making it nearly impossible to defend the points on the power play. This is one of the main reasons most teams best defense on the penalty kill is to collapse into the slot and try to block shots.
Looks like Sid has been cleared for contact and could be playing soon.
From the Penguins website,
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared for full contact, but there is not timetable for a possible return to the lineup.
“I was cleared to do contact,” Crosby said. “We’ll see how that goes. There is no real timetable, but it’s a good step. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum and get out there soon.”
Crosby, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 6 with concussion-like symptoms and a neck injury, has been symptom free for “a few days” and resumed contact practice with his teammates Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve been through this before,” Crosby said. “Contact is the big step. It’s nice to be symptom free, but it’s not as fulfilling until you get out there. I just want to make sure that I take the right steps here and get back out there soon.”
More of the story
Hockey Mom and family friend, Karen Schneider, has written a thoughtful article on Jack Jablonski.
The story is now available on-line on the SI IPad app (for $4.99) and it will be available on the news stands tomorrow. I have attached the link to the free print version (minus photos) below. I hope you will read it, and, if the spirit moves you, spread the word, as a way to support Jack and his family and the efforts of the enormous but intimate family of hockey players, but not only hockey players: of all parents who have to face difficult truths and make hard decisions as we take on the complex, daunting task of raising our children, and, in the process, striving to be the best role models and people we can be, one inch at a time. Jack\‘s story has both broken me like no other, and lifted me like no other. He is a remarkable, inspirational kid.
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