When Ilya Bryzgalov signed a nine year contract that would keep him in Philadelphia until 2020 it seemed the rest of his career was mapped out. Things changed. After two years the Flyers bought out his contract. That left Bryzgalov without a place to play. It wasn't until after the season had begun before the Edmonton Oilers signed him to a one year contract. This was done after Devan Dubnyk failed as the Oiler starter. The Oilers never saw Bryzgalov as a long term solution. He was merely a band aid until something more permanent could be found. When Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth were acquired he was again the odd man out.
He was traded to Minnesota for a fourth round draft pick. Minnesota needed something to shore up their goaltending in the short term. Niklas Backstrom had abdominal surgery and hasn't played since early March. Josh Harding is out with complications due to multiple sclerosis. That left Darcy Kuemper as the top healthy Minnesota goalie and that created an opening for Bryzgalov.
In the playoffs the Minnesota Wild surprised many by making it to the second round before falling to the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. Bryzgalov was the goalie who had the most starts along the way but he didn't post particularly strong numbers. He had a .885 saves percentage and a 2.63 GAA. These numbers were worse than those Kuemper posted.
In his column this Sunday Steve Simmons wrote:
A quick Rick Nash update: He leads the Stanley Cup playoffs with 49 shots on goal and is last in the playoffs with no goals scored. In 24 career playoff games for the Rangers, he has 91 shots, one goal. And last I checked, he was third in the playoffs in Corsi. The Corsi leader was Nick Leddy in Chicago, who was made a healthy scratch the other day by coach Joel Quenneville
This is not the first time that Simmons has said negative but incorrect things about Corsi, but this is the most incorrect he has been so far. In the past he has bashed Corsi because Tyler Seguin had a good Corsi rating and that somehow disproved the whole idea of Corsi. As stupid as that logic is, Seguin's 2013/14 season showed that his puck possession as measured by his Corsi was a good sign that he was soon to establish himself as a star. He followed that up by arguing that the Leafs penalty killing led by Jay McClement disproved the Corsi concept. Penalty killing is not included in Corsi ratings at all and Jay McClement after adjustment for his zone starts had an above average Corsi. These attempts to bash Corsi were at best misguided and at worst outright stupidity.
A few NHL teams have general manager openings to fill and Philadelphia Flyers assistant general manager Ron Hextall is considered a top contender to fill one of those positions. In order to prevent another team to hire him away from the Flyers, he has been promoted to general manager. In order to make room, Paul Holmgren was promoted to president.
Holmgren had been the Flyers GM since 2006. Although the Flyers had been a pretty good team through most of his tenure, he made several questionable moves. Trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who became significant parts of the Los Angeles Kings 2012 Stanley Cup victory in order to have salary cap room to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, who was bought out. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky was traded away when Bryzgalov was seen as the Flyers goalie. It is not a good record. I wrote about it here.
Over the last couple of weeks the finalists for the NHL awards (at least those that interest me) have been announced. While I have already posted who I would vote for if I had an award ballot, we can infer a lot more from looking at the award nominees. Here are my comments on the finalists that have been announced:
Calder Trophy: Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche, Ondrej Palat Tampa Bay Lightning. These are the three highest scoring rookies. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish in the order of their point totals meaning MacKinnon gets the award. Missing out is Torey Krug of Boston. He is the top scoring defenceman this year and did a very good job as the power play point man for the top team in the regular season. The argument against Krug was that he didn't play as many minutes as top defencemen - though he played more minutes than any of the Calder nominee forwards. Given the minutes Zdeno Chara plays that is probably an unreasonable expectation for Krug. I have him as a close second behind MacKinnon.
Two days ago before the Los Angeles/Anaheim game was played I picked PK Subban as the reigning playoff MVP. Probably he was surpassed during the Los Angeles victory in a few hours by Anze Kopitar. Kopitar continues to play well and has an assist within the first minute of today's game. Kopitar is currently at 14 points and that number may continue to grow during today's game. This is a three point lead on anyone else in the playoffs. For such offensive dominance - with very good defensive play as well - Anze Kopitar is my current leader in the Conn Smythe race.
Kopitar is a top player in the NHL. If he can hold on to this Conn Smythe Trophy lead - which would require a significant Los Angeles playoff run - Kopitar would likely establish himself as a top NHL star. He has the talent to make that a possibility.
The first round of the AHL playoffs completed today. It was a best of five series for all the teams involved. Here is a summary of the results:
Norfolk Admirals beat Manchester Monarchs three games to one. Norfolk is the Anaheim Ducks farm team and Manchester belongs to Los Angeles. This was a close series; each Norfolk victory was a one goal win. Maxime Sauve led the Norfolk offence as their only player to score two goals. Sami Vatanen led their defence and had a team leading three assists. John Gibson had a strong performance in their goal. Andy Andreoff and Jordan Weal led the Manchester offence. Jean-Francois Berube manned their goal.
In the first round of the playoffs, I picked Tuukka Rask as the early playoff MVP. He had an outstanding first round when his Bruins dispatched the Detroit Red Wings; however his second round hasn't been so strong. He was not a top player in either of his second round games so far, thus I am picking a new playoff MVP. My pick is PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. Subban has nine points from defence in his six playoff games so far and has earned the hatred of the Boston Bruin fans.
Subban is a very talented player. He is one of the most talented players in the NHL. He has not learned to give an effort worthy of his talent level on a regular basis through a long season. However Subban giving his best in the big games and in a good portion of the regular season games is clearly a top player. If he learns a little consistency, he may be the best defenceman in the game. He has been the best player through the beginning of the playoffs.
It wasn't too long ago that the stupidest most irresponsible fans of a team had no venue to show off their stupidity. Those were the good old days.
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in two overtime periods. This gave them a 1-0 lead in their second round series. PK Subban scored two goals in the game including the overtime winner. Some of the Bruin fans took to twitter to show off their ignorance.
Subban is one of the few black players in the NHL and this prompted these Bruins fans to display their racism. There was a tweet showing a noose that said "Tied something for Subban" and others calling him "the n word". Although this is not a representative sample of the Bruins fans, it was bad enough that Boston president Cam Neely released a statement that these fans do not speak for the Bruins organization.
I long for the good old days when idiot fans did not have the ability to display their ignorance internationally.
Steve Mason was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2009. His career looked like it was on its way to stardom. In his next almost four years in Columbus he was unable to replicate those numbers. He almost played himself out of the NHL. In 2013 he was traded to Philadelphia for a 3rd round draft pick and Michael Leighton, who was almost immediately allowed to walk away to the KHL. It was likely Mason's last chance to stay in the NHL.
Mason put up some strong numbers in his late season tryout with the Flyers and he was signed to a new contract and pencilled in to be the Flyers starting goalie in 2013/14. That looked to many like a recipe for disaster. However disaster never happened. In the regular season, Mason put up career bests in goals against average and saves percentage (1.90 and .917 respectively). These numbers were better than his rookie of the year numbers. He kept it up into the playoffs. He currently stands second to Tuukka Rask in both GAA and saves percentage in the playoffs (1.97 and .939 respectively). The Flyers may not have won in the first round but Mason gets no blame and nothing but rave reviews for his play.
The question is what do we expect going forward?
The first round of the playoffs concluded today and my first round predictions did well. I picked seven of the eight first round series correctly. My mistake was picking Colorado over Minnesota. When a series goes to overtime in a seventh game, all you can really conclude is that the two teams were well-matched and either could have won the series.
As for a 7-1 record in the first round, I did very well. It requires a combination of luck and hockey knowledge to do that well. Ironically commenter redxblack quickly criticized my picks because apparently I did not pick enough upsets. When he made his own picks he went 2-6. So I guess he lived by his idea of picking upsets but he didn't make himself look like much of a hockey expert. I have coins that can do better.
Onward to my second round predictions.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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