With seven seconds left in game one of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins playoff series, a game Pittsburgh was winning (and won) 4-1, Daniel Carcillo of the Flyers took a faceoff against Maxime Talbot of the Penguins. The game was getting out of referee control at the time. There had been 26 minutes in penalties handed out in three separate incidents in less than the last twenty seconds of the game. Philadelphia was killing a penalty. This seemed like an unusual move for the Flyers. Carcillo is not a penalty killer. He averaged two seconds per game (!) on the penalty kill this season. He only took twenty faceoffs all season. Carcillo is the man who led the NHL in penalty minutes both this season and last season (his NHL career has only been two seasons long). It was a suspicious enough move that the linesman even warned Carcillo not to do anything stupid. When the puck was dropped, Carcillo hit Talbot in the head with the butt-end of his stick and/or punched him. Talbot was not hurt in the play and Carcillo was not penalized. The NHL reviewed the situation and decided to suspend Daniel Carcillo for game two and fine Flyers coach John Stevens $10,000 for setting up the situation so that his team could “send a message” for the rest of the series.
The Minnesota Wild front office will look different next season. Their coach Jacques Lemaire quit at the end of the season. He had been their only coach in franchise history and had built a very successful system that had made the Wild a much better team than their talent level would have predicted. Minnesota is a team that has only ever had one player who can be considered a scoring star in Marian Gaborik. Despite the fact that Gaborik is injury prone and was held to 17 games played this season, Minnesota barely missed the playoffs this year finishing in ninth place in the West Conference. It was a common, but incorrect, opinion that the problem with the Wild was Lemaire’s defensive scheme. The theory was that it prevented the Wild from offensive success. A much more reasonable theory is that the Wild had little offensive talent and their defensive scheme was what gave them the success that they had. The man who was at fault for the lack of offensive talent is the general manager Doug Risebrough. Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild announced his firing.
One question I try to answer is at what point in their careers, a player establishes himself as a Hall Of Famer. At what point does it no longer matter what he does or does not do for the rest of his career because he has done enough that he should make the Hall of Fame? This season I think Alexander Ovechkin got himself to that point.
Ovechkin is only 23 years old and most likely has the majority of his career ahead of him and yet he has already done more than most players will do in their lifetimes. In four seasons he has won the Hart Trophy once, the Art Ross Trophy once, the Richard Trophy twice, the Calder Trophy once, the Pearson Award once and he has made the First Team All Star at left wing three times. In this season the awards have not yet been presented, but he is a likely favorite for another Hart and Pearson Trophy as well as the First Team All Star. He is the most likely choice by fans as the best player in the game today. That is a Hall of Fame career in and of itself and it is probably only a portion of Ovechkin’s entire career.
The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is underway soon. It is time to make predictions. Last year I managed a respectable 10-5 record in the playoffs. Let’s see how I can do this year.
San Jose defeats Anaheim This is the first time ever for this battle of California series. Anaheim is much stronger than a typical eighth seed. They are two years removed from a Stanley Cup victory and retain much of that talent. They have further young scoring talent in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. They can be a strong playoff team if Jean-Sebastien Giguere provides goaltending. However, San Jose is the team to beat this year. They are the most well rounded playoff team and coming off a first place finish in the regular season. The Sharks will get pushed in the first round, but they should be too much for the Ducks.
Every year I like to post my NHL award choices at the end of the season (here is last year’s version). My picks are not who I think will win the awards but rather who I would vote for. They are the players I think deserve the awards.
Selke Trophy- 1. Mike Richards Philadelphia Flyers 2. Mikko Koivu Minnesota Wild 3. Eric Staal Carolina Hurricanes
I think it is possible that Pavel Datsyuk may be the winner if it is not Richards. Datsyuk does not play nearly as many minutes in defensive situations as these choices and is therefore a poorer choice. This trophy should go to a player who is used in as many of his team’s defensive situations as possible and Datsyuk doesn’t qualify. Here is why I support Mike Richards.
I think no team is over 50% likely to win the Stanley Cup this year. That means that most likely San Jose will not win the Stanley Cup this year even though they are the single team with the best chance at it.
What makes San Jose the most likely cup winner? They had a very good regular season winning the President’s Trophy. They did so despite travel issues that when accounted for would make their lead even bigger.
San Jose has the most talented team in the league with no clear weaknesses. They have a good goalie in Evgeni Nabokov. Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Christian Ehrhoff and Rob Blake give the Sharks one of the better defences in the NHL. They have a good group of forwards in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi, Milan Michalek, Ryane Clowe and Jonathan Cheechoo. They have some good grinders and wily veterans to make up their depth including Travis Moen, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Grier and Claude Lemieux. This is a good team.
I have been supporting Jacques Lemaire as coach of the year for most of this season and while he has done an amazing job with a Minnesota Wild team I do not think he is the best candidate right now. Andy Murray in St Louis has done an even better job this season. He is my choice.
Murray has been a very good coach for years. This year he had a St Louis team that looked like it was on its way to a lottery pick in the draft. He made several key moves that changed their fortunes. He sent early season number one goalie Manny Legace to the minors and made Chris Mason the number one goalie. He gave young players including TJ Oshie and David Backes the lead role offensively. He kept things positive despite a poor start and despite longterm injuries to Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson, who were considered key components of the team. The Blues have now clinched a playoff berth and Murray deserves credit for transforming the team into a playoff team.
The NHL; has been actively trying to increase the number of goals per game. Since the lockout, the most successful method has likely been increasing the number and importance of power plays. An obstruction crackdown was launched when the league started back up after the lockout that led to an increase in penalties. An increase in penalties led to an increase in goals. Over time the number of penalties has began to drop, but the NHL added a rule this season that the opening faceoff after a penalty is in the defensive zone of the penalized team. That has continued the increase in power play goals. The average team scores 25-30% of their goals on the power play. It is hard to be successful in the NHL without a good power play.
The worst power play in the NHL belongs to the Columbus Blue Jackets and they have clinched a playoff berth.
One story that has not been adequately reported is the fact that the Calgary Flames, a team in a tight race for the Northwest Division, has been playing games with less than a full roster. The problem is that they have so little salary cap room that they have not been able to afford to dress a full lineup. Three defencemen, Robyn Regehr, Adrian Aucoin and Cory Sarich all suffered injuries, but none are serious enough to go on the long-term disabled list (especially given the fact this would keep them out of the beginning games of the Stanley Cup playoffs). The Calgary Flames have played their last three games with less than a full roster. They played last Friday’s game against Minnesota with only 16 skaters (instead of 18) and predictably lost 4-0. They played Monday and Tuesday’s games, against Los Angeles and Vancouver respectively, with 17 skaters. Amazingly they defeated Los Angeles 4-1, but lost to Vancouver also by a 4-1 score.
Dustin Boyd currently in the minors for salary cap reasons. Boyd has been a solid forward for the Flames with 22 points so far this season. He is somebody who can be sent to the minors without worrying about waivers, so he is their salary cap sacrifice. He is the final player the Flames would like to have in their line-up to dress a full roster.
Every year it seems one team makes that playoffs but is the weak first round opponent that everyone would like to face. Last year, that team was the Ottawa Senators. Given their slump over the last half of the year, it was no surprise when Pittsburgh beat them 4-0 in the first round. This year the team that best fits that role is the Montreal Canadiens. Since the beginning of 2009, the Canadiens have a 20—24 record (with four regulation tie points). That is 22nd overall in the league in that time period. It is the second worst among presumptive playoff teams (the New York Rangers have actually been worse).
The Montreal Canadiens problems are made worse by recent defensive injuries. This season’s team MVP Andrei Markov is expected to miss three weeks with a knee problem and Mathieu Schneider is out for the season with shoulder surgery. This is a big blow to the Montreal defence. Likely, by the time Markov is ready to play again, Montreal will have been eliminated from the playoffs.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???