The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Archive for the tag “Chicago Blackhawks”

Mirror Mirror On The Wall…

Tonight is game one of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final (why do people refer to it as the finals?) between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.  The story here is that each team may as well be playing themselves.  These two teams are almost mirror images of each other in just about every aspect.  Offense, defense, special teams…its difficult to separate one from the other.  Taking a look at the personnel on each squad only displays, in greater detail, just how similar the B’s and ‘Hawks are to each other.

David Krejci and Patrick Kane:

Yes, Kane has played one more game, but the average time on ice per game separates the two by only one minute, with Krejci averaging 20:57 to Kane’s 19:57.  David obviously gets the nod in points, as the leader in these playoffs, but with 6 goals and 14 points, Kane is slowly closing in on David’s 21 points.  Even size-wise they are close.  As we all know, the official heights and weights the teams release is questionable in some cases, David is listed at 6 feet, 188 pounds.  Kane is a paltry (tongue firmly planted in cheek) 5′ 11″ and 181 pounds.  This matchup is a wash in my opinion, creativity going to Kane.

Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews:

Two of the best two way players, if not the two best (with a nod to Pavel in Detroit) in the NHL at this time.  Both are Selke nominees this season, so they automatically cancel each other out, and possibly the entire opposing team at the same time, they are both just that damn good.   Here Toews gets the time on ice nod by a little over half a minute, with both players over 20 minutes per night.  Toews is at 21.  Bergeron has 11 points during this post season, edging out Toews by two, but its no secret that Jonathan has been struggling to put the puck in the net with only one goal in 17 games.  Again, size is comparable, with both individuals listed at 6′ 2″ and Toews slightly heavier at 208 to Patrice’s 194 pounds.  The edge here would have to go to Bergeron, solely on the fact that Toews is struggling to find the back of the net.  Should this change, then this matchup is a wash as well.

Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith:

Two Norris trophy winners, and unlike this year’s presumptive winner, they both won the award on their defensive prowess as well as their ability to dent the twine.  Zdeno is a beast this post-season with 29 minutes of time on ice while Keith is no slouch at just under 26 minutes per game.  They are exact with their stat lines at 2 goals and 11 points.  Big Z has an 8 inch height advantage, a 6 point +/- advantage, and, in this writer’s opinion, a slight advantage in the series.

Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford:

Tuukka is finally casting the shadow of Tim Thomas off his back.  I would be the first to tell you that there is a book on him, as there is for most European goaltenders.  High glove is the place to shoot when facing him.  But this post-season, Tuukka is playing out of his mind.  Allowing only two goals to the vaunted Penguin offense (yes, I am aware that he doesn’t do it all on his own, but he is the last line of defense) is nothing to scoff at.  His 1.75 GAA and 94.3 save percentage are ridiculous, and to allow for one other comparison, better than the final numbers Thomas put up in the Stanley Cup run from 2010-11.  Corey Crawford on the other hand…wait, his numbers are ridiculous as well.  He has a 1.74 GAA and a 93.5 save percentage.  So again, this is a wash.  

There are too many comparisons to make…Lucic and Bickell, Marchand and Shaw, the ineffectiveness of both teams’ power play units.  The mirror images go on and on.  So when picking a winner in this Stanley Cup series, I would say that it will be the Bruins in seven, or six, or seven.  Yep, I have been called a homer (and I am, especially when it comes to the Red Wings), but I feel that there is a slight intangible that sways it for the Black and Gold.  Or maybe it will be the Blackhawks in seven, due to their superb penalty killing this post-season.  Oh, wait…If you look at just the last two rounds, the Bruins have a higher penalty kill percentage at 93.55% than the Blackhawks 92.5%.  See, the comparisons just keep coming, so do what I went and did…just ask the mirror mirror on the wall.

L.W.L.

Special thanks to Sportsnetics.com for the assist with some of the statistics used in this post.

Power Play Possibilities

So it is the morning of the aftermath of what was, for all intents ans purposes, the death knell for Dan Bylsma with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Pens had a great run, with a power play that was all but unstoppable, humming along through the first two rounds at a 28.3% clip.  The problem is the buzz saw they ran into in the Eastern Conference Finals known as the Boston Bruins…or more specifically…the Boston Bruins Penalty Kill.

The Bruins had the number one power play for 90 percent of the season.  In the last week or two (of the season), the penalty kill dropped to fourth in the league, where it finished.  The first round brought with it the Toronto Maple Leafs (again, why isn’t it Leaves?) with a power play that made Boston look, well, mortal.  Boston’s penalty killers allowed 5 goals on 21 attempts, good for a 76 percent clip.  The speed of the Maple Leaf forwards turned out to be the Achilles heel for the kill.  During the regular season the Leafs had a power play percentage just under 19% (good for 14th in the NHL), but raised that to 24 percent in that first round.

In the second round they faced the New York Rangers.  Now the Rangers anemic power play finished the regular season at just under 16%, still better than the 14.8 percent of the Boston Bruins.  The Rangers managed just two goals of the power play variety in the second round, but none during the regular season.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pens managed to score…no power play goals.  That’s right, none.  This after scoring 2 in 11 chances during the strike shortened regular season.  I mentioned the buzz saw earlier.  The Pens not only completed 18% against the Bruins, but 42 in 170 chances…good for 24.7% during the season!

So why re-hash all this information that anyone can look up with a little initiative?  Well, the possible Stanley Cup opponents for the Boston Bruins have the 10th (Kings) and 19th (Blackhawks) best power plays in the NHL this season.  Combined in the post season these two teams are 15 for 98, a 15.3% rate.  The Bruins managed to shut down a team that scored on 1/3rd of their opportunities in the first round…One Third.  And just for kicks, the Pens still scored on one quarter of their power plays in the second round against the Senators.  Just to put the bow on this package, the Islanders were almost woeful against the man advantage, but Ottawa, who allowed 24 percent against the Pens, were the best against the power play, allowing only 12% of the opportunities result in goals.

The moral of this story…if the Kings or the Blackhawks expect to beat the Bruins in the finals, they will most likely have to do it at even strength, because if the best power play in the game couldn’t get it done, well, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the next opponent on the board.  Right now the Bruins have the hottest goaltender in the playoffs and have shown that they don’t have to out hit their opponent to win a hockey game.  They have been rolling four strong lines, and even with the misfiring on the third line, the fourth line, the Merlot line, as it is known, has picked up the slack.

So this writer wishes good luck to all those teams left in the playoffs, but for whoever comes out of the West, if you expect to beat the Bruins, you may need as much as you can get.

L.W.L.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: