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.
The NHL has given a surprising number of suspensions out so far in the playoffs. There have been suspensions to Daniel Carcillo, Donald Brashear, Milan Lucic and John Tortorella. The underlying philosophy behind the suspensions has been to show an apparent tough face by strongly dealing with goons and marginal players, but to not appear to decide any playoff series by punishing the stars who are most important to their team. That policy will be tested after the knee-on-knee hit Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals gave to Sergei Gonchar of the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Gonchar left the game with a knee injury and is questionable for the rest of the series.
In general, the Stanley Cup playoffs have fewer penalties and less use for goons who offer little in hockey ability beyond a willingness to fight, but sometimes exceptions exist. The main exception to this rule in this season’s playoffs has been Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks. Rypien leads the playoffs with 38 penalty minutes in his eight games so far. That gives him almost five penalty minutes per game. He has contributed one assist (which he got in tonight’s game) and has a -1 +/- rating. His +/- is not quite worst on the team, there are a few players at -2, but they are all players who get significantly more ice time than Rypien does. The Canucks have only played Rick Rypien about seven and a half minutes a game.
In a tight series with Chicago (it is tied at two games each) is it sensible for the Canucks to be dressing a player like this? They could be playing Jannik Hansen in place of Rypien. During the regular season, Hansen certainly appeared more valuable. He outscored Rypien 21 points to 3. Hansen played 14:42 a game in 55 games, while Rypien played 9:19 a game in only 12 games. Why is Hansen deemed less valuable now, when the goonery Rypien provides is less valuable now?
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???