The San Jose Sharks have failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs in the four years that Joe Thornton has been with them. In a lot of people’s minds, that alone is sufficient proof that Joe Thornton is a choker who is unable to win the big game. This argument is clearly too simplistic to prove anything. Let’s look closer at the issue.
A couple days ago James Mirtle listed the best playoff performers since the lockout. Despite a lack of any deep playoff runs, Joe Thornton places 16th in total points with 35 points in 41 games played. He is the only San Jose Shark to make the lists for top forwards, defencemen or goalies. Those offensive numbers Thornton has are certainly respectable numbers. They are down from his regular season scoring rate, in part because there is less scoring in the playoffs than the regular season, but they are good numbers.
The news slipped out a couple days ago that the NHL has been running the Phoenix Coyotes since February. It was a statement from Glendale, Arizona (home of Jobing.com Arena which is the Coyotes home) city manager Ed Beasley. He was trying to assure local taxpayers that the Phoenix Coyotes were paying their debts for parking fees and security costs at the arena. He was entirely unconcerned about the NHL public relations department that hade been trying to hide this information. Almost immediately the Phoenix Coyote front office denied that they are “reporting to the league”. This appears to be a carefully parsed statement to appear as denial to the Arizona Republic newspaper reports of Ed Beasley’s claims. Bill Daly of the NHL responded by saying “I believe the Coyotes will be in Phoenix next season. I won’t comment specifically on the article, other than to say it contains some inaccuracies,” which is clearly not a denial of the story.
When I commented on Daniel Carcillo’s suspension, I assumed that suspensions would get harder to come by as the playoffs went on. This does not seem to be the case yet. In fact Donald Brashear of the Washington Capitals was suspended for six games after two altercations in game six of the Caps series with the New York Rangers. During the pre-game warm up, Brashear shoved Colton Orr of the New York Rangers. For this he was suspended for one game. Orr was a healthy scratch in the game, so nothing further occurred between the two of them. In the game he gave a late hit to the head to Blair Betts. The hit came from behind so Betts was taken by surprise by it and suffered a broken orbital bone (the bone surrounding the eye). For the hit, Brashear was suspended for five more games giving him a total of six games in his suspension.
The first round of the NHL playoffs is over and my predictions came in 5-3 which isn’t too bad. It is time to look at the second round match-ups.
Boston Bruins defeat Carolina Hurricanes Boston has been the team to beat in the East Conference all season. They breezed by Montreal, while Carolina had an epic seven game struggle with New Jersey. The Bruins are the more talented, better rested team and thus the better bet.
The first round of the AHL playoffs is complete. Here is a summary of what happened in the first round series.
Worchester Sharks defeat Hartford Wolf Pack 4 games to 2 Worchester is the San Jose Sharks farm club and Hartford is the New York Rangers affiliate. Hartford took the lead in this series winning the first two games. Worchester required two overtimes to pull out game three and then held on to the final three games. Worcester was led offensively by Riley Armstrong and Dan DaSilva. Patrick Traverse played well on defence and Thomas Greiss was in goal. Hartford’s top scorer was defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti, followed by Dane Byers and Dale Weiss. Matt Zaba was in goal.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are defending Stanley Cup finalists. Despite that they had a slow start this season that had them out of the playoff race. The slow start even led to them firing their coach. These problems occurred despite having Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in their line-up. Malkin was leading the NHL in points and Crosby was not too far behind him. The problems were largely tied to a lack of an elite defenceman and poor goal prevention. They were solved when Sergei Gonchar returned from a shoulder injury.
Gonchar only played 25 games for the Penguins this season, but it was in those games that Pittsburgh climbed back up to serious contention. Gonchar continued his top play into the playoffs scoring five points in six games. He scored the series winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers,
The leader in ice time (per game) so far in the playoffs is Paul Martin of the New Jersey Devils. He has played over 27 minutes per game. He is an underrated player who gets little written about him, so I thought I would write something. Martin has quietly developed into the best defenceman on the Devils team.
Martin consistently scores thirty or more points a season and puts up one of the better +/- ratings on his club, while playing against some of the top offensive players in the league. He has the best defenceman on the team with the fourth best defence in the league this year. He is the Devils go to guy in all situations - even in the playoffs. Paul Martin is one of the most unsung players around in the NHL today.
One of the stories of the first round of the playoffs has been the struggles of the President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. They are currently losing to the Anaheim Ducks three games to one. The main reason for this is that the San Jose offence has not succeeded in the playoffs this year. The Sharks have only six goals in four playoff games and have been shut out twice. The Sharks only have three goals from their forwards in four games. Ryane Clowe, Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau have each scored one goal each. No other forwards have goals. Obviously that isn’t good enough.
A lot of the blame for this is being placed upon the shoulders of Joe Thornton. Thornton is the team’s regular season top scorer and while he has two assists, he has no goals in these playoffs. He has no history of successful playoff runs in his past. In his career he has never made it beyond the second round.
The Detroit Red Wings have been a very successful team in the past several years. They have won four Stanley Cups in the past twelve years. Because of their success many of their individual role players have achieved legacies above the level that their talent level might have predicted. There are no players who fit in this camp more than Chris Osgood.
Osgood is a good goaltender who has had a pretty long career. He has been able to win a lot of games (a team statistic). He has 389 career regular season wins. This ties him for tenth place overall with Dominik Hasek. That coupled with his team’s Stanley Cup success is often used as an argument for Osgood one day making the Hall of Fame.
It is a popular story in sports when an improbable team makes a run and wins it all. It is also a story that rarely ever happens. This season the team that best fit the Cinderella role was the St Louis Blues. At mid-season it looked like they were in the race for a lottery pick in the draft and they wound up finishing strong and placing sixth in the West Conference. That got them a lot of believers including high profile bloggers such as Puck Daddy (Greg Wyshynski). The St Louis playoff run ended the way a lot of Cinderella playoff runs end. It ended in failure. There is a reason why the team is so improbable to be such an underdog and those reasons almost always win out. Cinderella is left in a field with a pumpkin and a few mice wondering what happened.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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