The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is over. I made my first round predictions and picked 6 of 8 successfully. It’s not a bad performance, but there is always some luck involved in making successful picks. Both series I picked incorrectly went seven games and had one goal games that could have easily gone the other way and led to the series being won by the other team.
Here we go with the second round predictions:
The first round of the Calder Cup playoffs concluded last night. Here are the results of the eight first round series:
Portland Pirates defeat Connecticut Whale 4 games to 2 Portland is the Buffalo Sabres affiliate and Connecticut is the affiliate of the New York Rangers. Portland has been led offensively by Corey Tropp and Mark Mancari (who was called up to the NHL during the series). David Leggio has provided goaltending. Connecticut has been led by John Mitchell and Chad Kolarik (who returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out the last month of the season) and defenceman Wade Redden. Dov Grumet-Morris provided goaltending.
It appears that Roberto Luongo hurt himself in game four in a scramble in front of the Canucks net. Not long after that, his play seems to have fallen apart. He was pulled in both games four and five after the Chicago Blackhawks got to him. He missed practise during that run. It seems clear that there is a problem that we are not being told about. After the Canucks playoff is over, I am sure we will learn more details.
It seems that the plan was to play Luongo in game six. After all you have to play the players who brought you there and Luongo is the Canucks number one goalie. It appears he wasn’t ready to go in game six so the Canucks started Cory Schneider. Schneider was injured when Michael Frolik scored on the penalty shot tying the game at 3-3. This brought Luongo into the game.
What do you do going forward? Do you play injured goalie A or injured goalie B? The biggest factor to decide game seven will be the Canucks medical staff. Will either goalie be ready to go at close to 100% on Tuesday?
I try to keep track of the current playoff MVP as the playoffs are played to try to determine when the eventual Conn Smythe winner establishes himself as the playoff MVP. I made my first pick of Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. Immediately after I selected him, he allowed five goals in Montreal’s game four loss. He bounced back with a good outing tonight, though a losing one. He stopped 49 of 51 shots, but lost in double overtime. Price has been a good goaltender in the playoffs and he remains the strongest player on the Habs, but it is no longer clear that he has been the top goaltender in the playoffs so far (let alone the MVP).
Picking a new MVP is not so easy. It would be nice if somebody jumped forward to be a clear contender in the last couple nights of play, but nobody has.
If before the playoffs began, I told you Vancouver would be up three games to two against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in their first round series, would you have said the Canucks were having a pretty good series? I would have too. But that isn’t how most people see things right now.
We are a little bit past halfway through the first round of the playoffs. There are many stories, but things have been largely predictable. No big underdogs have taken leads or won series. I think the biggest surprise is that Montreal is even with Boston. Boston is the better team and though they have pulled even in the series, I would have thought they would have looked better at this point. The over-simplified explanation for this is that the Boston power play has failed to score any goals so far - or conversely the Montreal penalty kill has been perfect. The importance of special teams and the lack of success Boston has had on the power play have made this series closer than it has been expected.
It is still early in the playoffs. No team has been eliminated yet (though it is possible that could change tonight). I am ready to pick my first playoff MVP. I select Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. He leads the playoffs with a .956 saves percentage and has a 1.34 goals against average. Montreal has been outshot and outplayed in their three games with Boston so far, yet they lead the series with a 2 games to one lead.
Montreal is not new to great playoff performances from goaltending. Last year they made the semi-finals on a strong performance from Jaroslav Halak. Before that, history books are full of stories of playoff success under Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante.
It is still early in the playoffs, but Montreal’s success so far has been largely due to Price’s play.
I will write a comprehensive post when all the award nominees have been announced discussing what I think the nominations mean to who will actually win them. In the meantime, I want to comment on Michael Grabner’s path to his Calder trophy nomination. Though I am not surprised by his nomination, I think it is a bit of a mistake. I argue John Carlson should win this award, with Jeff Skinner and Logan Couture as the other nominees. I fully expected Grabner to be the third nominee, but it is really shameful the way Carlson’s defence has been ignored by the voters. John Carlson was the top shutdown defenceman on the best team in the East Conference and also scored 37 points from defence. His defensive value is significant and overlooked because he was not a player in the rookie scoring race.
With that preliminary out of the way, Grabner’s trip to a Calder nomination is an interesting story.
If I told you that the NHL’s ice time leader in the playoffs so far is a rookie who was healthy scratched in three straight games this December, would you believe it? PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is the current ice time leader. He has played over 81 minutes in his three games so far in the playoffs. This is quite impressive for a rookie.
Subban was second among NHL rookies in ice time this year (John Carlson was first) and 55th in the league. While I argue that this is clearly evidence that Subban is a very talented young player, it also shows that Montreal’s defence is not in good shape. Montreal is lucky to be up 2 games to one. While Boston can offer Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle on their defence, Montreal counters with Subban and Hal Gill. This is a huge advantage for the Bruins.
We have known for a while that Corey Perry is a good player. He was a member of the 2010 gold medal winning Canadian Olympic Team. He played in the All Star Game in 2008. However I don’t think anyone expected he was as good as he showed this season. Prior to this season, Perry had played five NHL seasons and his career best goals total was 32 and his career best point total was 76. This year his 50 goal 98 point season was well above his established bests. He is likely going to be a Hart Trophy nominee when the nominations are announced.
It is pretty rare that a 25 (soon to be 26 year old) suddenly jumps by over 25% in points or 50% in goals in his sixth NHL season. In those rare cases, it is not common that the player in question maintains his large offensive jumps
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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