While the NHL playoffs are underway, the AHL is also in playoffs. The Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal affiliate) and Hershey Bears (Washington affiliate) are both leading semi-final series by 2-0 margins. Hamilton has had to face the loss of their best player in their playoff run, P.K. Subban finished third on the team with 53 points in the regular season - scored from defence. He had a league leading +46 +/- rating and narrowly lost the Eddie Shore award as best defenceman in the league to Danny Groulx of Worcester.
In the playoffs, Subban started well. He had 9 points in 6 games before injuries prompted Montreal to call him up to the NHL. Subban has played well in the NHL. He has been a solid part of the Habs blueline, playing over 20 minutes a game. He looks like he may never be back in the AHL.
At some point during the playoffs I always like to speculate on the Hall of Fame inductions for the season. They happen so quickly after the playoffs end that I never get to them in that window.
This year, there are two players who are first year Hall of Fame eligible that I think belong in the Hall. They are Eric Lindros and Joe Nieuwendyk. Neither are clear first ballot Hall of Famers, but both should eventually gain induction.
There have been a few years of very strong Hall classes in the recent past. This has left us with some players who should be in the Hall who have not been inducted yet. This will be a good year to induct some of Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk, Dino Ciccarelli, Adam Oates, Sergei Makarov, Phil Housley, Mark Howe and others.
The second round of the playoffs came to an end last night. I went 2-2 in my second round playoff predictions, which combined with my first round predictions give me a 7-5 record. It is interesting, that the predictions most challenged in the comments in the second round were San Jose and Chicago (the correct ones) and not Pittsburgh and Boston (the incorrect ones). At this point, I have been perfect in West Conference predictions and only had one correct prediction (Pittsburgh over Ottawa) in the East Conference. I guess that is to be expected when the 1 and 2 seed have survived in the West and the 7 and 8 seeds in the East. My strongest prediction at this point is that a West Conference team will win the Stanley Cup. In the regular season, San Jose finished 2nd, Chicago 3rd, Philadelphia 18th and Montreal 19th. It doesn’t take much to see that the talented teams are in the west right now and that the western final is likely the de facto Stanley Cup championship.
The World Hockey Championships are underway in Germany. That is a very overstated name for a tournament that often does not include the best players in the world because it is played at the same time as the Stanley Cup playoffs and only eliminated players can participate. Many NHL players on eliminated teams chose not to play for various personal reasons. It is hardly a world championship tournament - that was the Olympics. Nevertheless, it can be interesting hockey to see some of the better European players playing with and against some NHLers.
The tournament is being played in Mannheim and Cologne, Germany, with an opening day game (hometown Germany vs. USA - who have a strong level of support due to local US forces bases) played in front of 77,000 fans in a soccer stadium in Gelsenchirken.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 loss in game seven of their second round series last night. The NHL will not have a repeat Stanley Cup champion this year. The NHL has not has a repeat Stanley Cup champion since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. It has been 12 years since a team repeated as Stanley Cup champion. This is something that has not happened before in the history of the Stanley Cup and is a sign that elite teams are no longer being formed and kept together for a period of a few years.
In fact, events during this twelve year period, including expansion and a salary cap, have made it significantly harder for an elite team to be formed or kept together. Today, when a team gets to be pretty good, but not (yet?) Stanley Cup worthy, the salary cap forces them to be broken up.
The second round of the AHL playoffs concluded last night. Coverage of the first round can be found here. These are the second round results:
Hamilton Bulldogs defeat Abbotsford Heat four games to two Hamilton is the Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate and Abbotsford is that of Calgary. David Desharnais and Mike Glumac led Hamilton offensively, with Andre Benoit leading their defence. Cedrick Desjardins provided their goaltending. Abbotsford’s offence came from Brett Sutter and Mikael Backlund with David Shantz in goal.
One of the reasons that the Vancouver Canucks are losing three games to two against the Chicago Blackhawks is poor penalty kill. In the playoffs, their penalty kill has been 67.3% successful. This is the worst penalty kill in the playoffs and is a worse success rate than any team put up in the regular season (in a regular season where the Toronto Maple Leafs flirted with having the worst penalty kill ever).
In the regular season, Vancouver had a slightly below mid-range penalty kill. Their 81.9% successful penalty kill was 17th in the league, but it has fallen apart in playoff time. They have actually done better against Chicago than they did against Los Angeles in the first round (but their 61.5% success rate against LA was so bad it is hard not to improve).
Last season I criticized Evgeni Malkin’s Hart trophy nomination because he had a very offensive zone start record and still gave up a lot of scoring chances to opponents. His zone and team adjusted Corsi Number was second worst in the NHL. Now that does not mean he is the second worst player in the league - or anything ridiculous like that - but it means that given his strong offensive usage, the amount of time opponents controlled the puck in the Pittsburgh zone, shows defensive weaknesses in Malkin. It certainly shows that his Hart Trophy nomination was a poor one driven only by his offensive numbers and not a look at his complete game.
In the first round, I picked Sidney Crosby as the early playoff MVP. Since then Crosby has had a mini-slump. he has been held to one point in the last four games. This leads me to pick another playoff MVP. My selection is Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens.
Halak is the lone reason that Montreal remains alive in the playoffs. He has a .933 saves percentage and 2.40 GAA so far in the playoffs. He shut the door on the Washington Capitals by allowing only three goals in the final three games of the first round series. That allowed Montreal to make a comeback and win the first round series. Halak’s play has kept Montreal in their second round series against Pittsburgh so far. Pittsburgh leads the series 3-2, which has Montreal on the ropes. Nevertheless, Halak has played so well to be the current playoff MVP and he would likely remain the playoff MVP for a while after elimination were Montreal to lose their next game.
Twelve playoff series so far this season are either complete or far enough into play that it is clear that they cannot be four game sweeps. There have been no four game sweeps so far this season. That result is improbable.
We can set up a simple model to see the expected rate of four game sweep playoff series. If we assume that each game is decided by a coin toss (which may not be a fair coin) we can calculate the expected number of four game sweeps. In the extreme that the coin is 100% biased, where it is guaranteed to have the same result each time it is flipped, we are guaranteed that every series will be a four game sweep. The other limit is that there is perfect parity and each coin is 50% likely to be heads and 50% likely to be tails. In this case, one out of every eight playoff series will be a four game sweep.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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