Tampa Bay lost game one. Chicago did not win it. Tampa made the mistake of not playing their game once they got a one goal lead. If it is successful to play a certain style of game to get a lead then it will remain successful to continue to play the same style of play once you have the lead. Tampa stopped playing their speed-based offensive game. They tried to hold onto a 1-0 lead through two plus periods and they couldn't.
Chicago is a better team than the New York Rangers. Maybe Tampa could get one goal and shut things down to beat the Rangers but that won't work against a team like Chicago. I argue this is a coaching mistake to attempt this. Joel Quenneville outcoached Jon Cooper.
Losing game one on home ice is a significant blow to the Tampa bay Lightning. Can they overcome it?
Manchester Monarchs defeat Hartford WolfPack in four straight. Manchester is the Los Angeles Kings farm affiliate and Hartford belongs to the New York Rangers. This series was never particularly close. Jordan Weal leads the playoffs in points at this point. Michael Mersch and Brian O'Neill have also made significant offensive contributions. Vincent LoVerde has been their top defenceman and Jean-Francois Berube has been their goaltender. Chris Bourque and Oscar Lindberg have been their top offensive players. Mat Bodie has been their top defenceman and Yann Danis has done their goaltending.
I have one final prediction to make in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. In the first round I went 6-2, in the second round I went 3-1 and in the third round I went 1-1. This gives me an overall 10-4 record in playoff predictions so far. The third round was tough in that both series went seven games. I think that anyone who went 2-0 or 0-2 was either lucky or unlucky. One series correct and one series incorrect is the most probable result when the series are that close. I was correct with Chicago but I picked the New York Rangers to come out of the East Conference. Of my four incorrect predictions, I have twice picked Tampa Bay to lose. I thought Montreal and the New York Rangers were going to beat them.
Onward to my finals prediction:
The Memorial Cup finished today in Quebec City. I wrote about the round robin results earlier. The round robin completed with no teams eliminated at all. This is a problem in the Memorial Cup format that reduces the importance of round robin games.
The playoffs began with a tie-breaker between the two third place finishers
Quebec Remparts 5 Rimouski Oceanic 2. Rimouski was the QMJHL champion and Quebec "earned" their Memorial Cup berth as host. Earlier these teams had fought a tough seven game battle in the QMJHL finals which Rimouski won. There was a different result here. Zach Fucale (Montreal prospect) was the Quebec goalie. Philippe Desrosiers (Dallas prospect) was the Rimouski goalie. Quebec opened the scoring only to have Rimouski tie it up. That pattern repeated itself to give a 2-2 score. Then Quebec added three unanswered goals. Jerome Verrier (Detroit prospect) led the way with two goals for Quebec. Adam Erne (Tampa Bay prospect) had a goal and an assist. Kurt Etchegary (undrafted) and Ryan Graves (New York Rangers prospect) each added two assists. Jeremy Lepine (undrafted) and Samuel Morin (Philadelphia prospect) scored the Rimouski goals. This moves Quebec to the semi-final.
With their 5-3 defeat of the Anaheim Ducks, the Chicago Blackhawks have made the Stanley Cup finals. They will play the Tampa Bay Lightning. They defeated Anaheim in a tough seven game series.
I have already argued that Tampa Bay is no elite team. I am using my longstanding necessary but not sufficient conditions to see if a team might be elite. I argue that elite teams need elite players. Therefore an elite team must have at least three players on track to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. Due to the importance of goaltending, they must also have a top flight goalie (who may or may not be one of the Hall of Famers) as well. How does Chicago measure up?
Tampa Bay just defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 to win their semi-final four games to three. They will be in the Stanley Cup finals. The problem is that they are not an elite team by my longstanding necessary but not sufficient definition of an elite team. An elite team must have elite players (though a group of elite players is not necessarily an elite team). They must have at least three players who are on a track to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. Also because of the importance of goaltending, they must have a top level goalie who may or may not be included in the list of Hall of Famers.
Tampa has no players who would make the Hall of Fame if they retire right now. Steve Stamkos looks like he will likely get himself there in the next few years but he isn't there yet. At this point his career numbers of 276 goals and 498 points do not measure up, but he has scored above point per game rate so far.
Early in the third round of the playoffs, I picked Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks as the playoff MVP at that point. Perry has since slipped to fifth overall in playoff scoring. He has been passed by teammate Ryan Getzlaf in the playoff point race. When I picked Perry, I thought he had passed Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks for the MVP lead. Keith has now regained the lead.
Duncan Keith leads all defencemen in points with 16 points in 16 games. He leads all players with a +11 +/- rating. Keith had a great game last night with three assists and a goal he saved. Keith has logged a ton of ice time. He leads the playoffs with 31:49 played per game.
Keith has been the best defencemen in the NHL in the last several years. If he can add a Conn Smythe Trophy to his resume that will go a long way toward his getting that respect. Of course another possibility is Chicago loses in game seven against Anaheim and Keith's playoff run ends without a trip to the finals. Likely I would pick a new MVP early in the finals. The Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the MVP of the playoffs and there is no need for that player to make the finals. The Conn Smythe winner has never gone to a player who did not make the finals. I doubt that Keith would be that guy if Chicago fails to make the finals, but it is an interesting thing to consider.
The round robin portion of the Memorial Cup has completed today. It is the Canadian Hockey League championship played by junior players. This year the tournament is held in Quebec City. It is the last hockey event to be played in the Colisee where the Quebec Nordiques once played.
There are a few things I do not like about the Memorial Cup. One is that the host team makes it into the tournament. The other three participants are the winners of the three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League - the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Why should a team make the tournament merely for hosting it? It can allow an unqualified entrant and it leads to controversy should that team win the tournament when it did not make the tournament in its own right.
The other significant problem is that often the tournament ends with a tie in last place which puts all four teams in the playoffs. It makes the round robin not very important. Sure the round robin winner immediately makes the final but it makes a round robin not seem very important. It is possible that the last place team in the round robin could win the tournament. This year no team is eliminated after the round robin.
Here are the round robin results:
I haven't seen sufficient discussion of this fact. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose a playoff game in regulation. Their two losses to Chicago came in multiple overtimes and their loss to Calgary was in overtime as well. They swept the Winnipeg Jets. That is quite a run. How long will it last?
I have thus far stayed out of the Mike Babcock affair, but I thought I would say my piece.
In the first place, I am not sure that Babcock's move to Toronto is the biggest off-ice personnel move that occurred that day. Boston announced that Don Sweeney would be their new GM. A general manager has more ability to set the longterm success of a franchise than a coach does and thus likely Sweeney will have more longterm importance than Babcock.
Mike Babcock is possibly the best coach in the NHL. If he isn't the best, he is close. I pick him as the Jack Adams Trophy winner this year. He cannot win it because he isn't an announced finalist. The voters tend to pick the coach of the most improved team instead of the best coach.
Obviously Toronto will be improved with better coaching. Peter Horachek did not have a good run as the Leafs coach. Replacing him with someone who is average will be an improvement and Babcock is well above that.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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