The NHL’s suspension policy of acting tough on lesser players who commit infractions and going easy on the stars who do the same thing took another hit tonight. With 19 seconds left in game two, Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins instigated a fight against Henrik Zetterberg. There is an “automatic” one game suspension of anyone who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game or in overtime. Since Malkin is too good a player to receive a suspension (after all Malkin is the top scorer in the playoffs), his suspension was rescinded.
The most coherent interpretation of the rule for suspensions for instigating fights at the end of the game is that you will be suspended for it, unless you are a key player to the NHL’s marketing and they want you to stay in the game. The NHL would not like to be accused of deciding who wins the Stanley Cup due to suspending a star player.
One obvious weakness of the Pittsburgh Penguins is that their offence is too dependent upon Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. No other Pittsburgh player has more than half as many points as either of the Penguins stars. Those that lead the pack of the rest of the Pittsburgh scorers are Crosby and Malkin linemates. For the most part, goals are not being scored without Crosby or Malkin involved.
One key player who should be relied upon to provide these goals is Jordan Staal. Staal is seen as a key member of the Penguins core. They drafted him second overall in 2006. He is signed to a contract that will get him $4 million a year for the next four years. He will be the third highest paid Pittsburgh forward next year (behind Crosby and Malkin) unless there are further big forward contracts this summer. For Pittsburgh to succeed they would benefit from secondary scoring and a talented third line centreman should be a big part of providing it.
There is an often repeated hockey maxim that “If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice.” King Clancy was famous for saying it. I do not believe that it is true. This season had a negative correlation between PIMs and points. There is even stronger evidence that avoiding penalties is a key to success in the playoffs. The two teams with the least penalty minutes per game in the playoffs are the teams that will meet ion the playoffs.
Pittsburgh leads the league with 11.1 penalty minutes per game and Detroit is a close second at 11.2. The next team in the league is Washington at 11.6. On the other end of the scale, the most penalized team is the Montreal Canadiens. They took 25.8 penalty minutes per game while getting swept in four games.
I was correct on both my semi-final predictions, split my second round predictions and went 5-3 in my first round predictions. This gives me an overall 9-5 record in the 2009 playoffs. That isn’t too bad and I am guaranteed no worse than a .600 record in the playoffs even if I miss the finals prediction.
Here it is:
The Detroit Red Wings have eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks and are moving on to face Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals. It is a rematch of last season’s finals which Detroit won.
How good is Detroit on a historical scale? How would they match up with the greatest teams of all time?
I argue that historically elite teams necessarily have several players who are Hall of Famers or on Hall of Fame career tracks. Detroit has two players who are clear Hall of Famers regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers. They are Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios.
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.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???