With their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes complete, it is clear that the Pittsburgh Penguins are going back to the Stanley Cup finals. This will be their second appearance in the finals in a row. Pittsburgh is a good team that could win the Stanley Cup, but they are not a historically elite team. They lack the necessary but not sufficient conditions that they have an elite goalie. They do have several Hall of Fame track position players.
There is little question that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are forwards on a Hall of Fame track. Although they have not done enough in their careers yet to assure their spot in the Hall, it would take a significant change of their direction for them to not get there someday.
Hershey Bears defeat Providence Bruins four games to one Hershey is the Washington Capitals affiliate and Providence is that of the Boston Bruins. Hershey had big offensive contributions from Alexandre Giroux, Chris Bourque and Keith Aucoin. Michal Neuvirth has been very good in their goal. He sports a .929 saves percentage in the playoffs so far. Providence’s offence was led by Martin St Pierre and Brad Marchand, with Jeff Penner leading the defence. Tuukka Rask was good in goal with a .930 saves percentage.
The Memorial Cup completed on Sunday. Here was the preview I wrote.
The Kelowna Rockets won the round robin portion of the tournament. In fact they had it clinched after only two games as they had a 2-0 record and had defeated both of the Quebec teams (Drummondville and Rimouski), who both had 1-1 records and the Windsor Spitfires were yet to win.
Windsor had a must win game and Kelowna had a game that didn’t matter at all to end the round robin. In a hard fought game, Windsor won 2-1 to merely stay alive.
The playoff +/- leader is Daniel Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings. His +15 rating in only 14 games gives him a surprisingly big lead. He is three points ahead of Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and four points ahead of teammate Henrik Zetterberg (who has the second highest +/- rating among players still in the playoffs).
Cleary has had a good playoff so far. His thirteen points place him third on the Detroit Red Wings in scoring. That is not bad for a guy who at one time looked like he would be one of the biggest failed prospects in history.
The Minnesota Wild are at a turning point in their history. They have chosen their second GM in franchise history in Chuck Fletcher. Fletcher is a relatively young GM who has a great resume and lots of potential.
Chuck is Cliff Fletcher’s son. He is a Harvard graduate who has experience working for Hockey Canada, working as a player agent and working as an assistant GM and other front office positions for the Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins. He is somebody who has long been seen as a very good GM candidate by those in the hockey world.
One disagreement between me and much of the Detroit biased Abel to Yzerman readership who frequent Kukla’s Korner is the value of Chris Osgood. I argue that the 2009 version of Chris Osgood is far from being an elite goalie (a goalie who one could reasonably argue is among the top five or so goalies in the NHL). As a result I argue Detroit is not an elite team on a historical scale. They don’t have good enough goaltending to be one. There are no elite teams in the NHL today. Detroit may come closest to the level but their goaltending is too much of a weakness. Were Osgood to win the Stanley Cup this year, he would likely be the weakest goalie to win a cup in the NHL’s ownership of the Stanley Cup. A truly elite team on any historic level would not have such a glaring weakness.
In my watch of the playoff MVP throughout the playoffs I last picked Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals as the Conn Smythe leader, however since he has been eliminated from the playoffs it is time to pick a new leader. That player is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby leads the playoffs with 12 goals and 22 points. That gives him a one goal and one point lead over Ovechkin and a one point lead over teammate Evgeni Malkin.
I would argue that Ovechkin has still been a better overall player so far by a small margin and in an equal number of games to Crosby, but it makes no sense to have a Conn Smythe leader who was eliminated in the second round.
Faux rumors points out that three of the four teams that remain in the playoffs changed coached during the season. The Chicago Blackhawks began the season with Denis Savard coaching and quickly replaced him with Joel Quenneville, the Carolina Hurricanes replaced coach Peter Laviolette with Paul Maurice and the Pittsburgh Penguins replaced coach Michel Therrien with Dan Bylsma. Only Detroit has the coach they started the season with, as Mike Babcock remains their coach.
Faux goes on to assume the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is strong enough in the NHL that there will be many more teams firing coaches next year in an assumption that this coach firing caused their success because it came before it. He predicts 25-50% of coaches who start next season with a team do not finish the season.
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.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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