The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Archive for the tag “Pittsburgh Penguins”

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.

Where Do They Go From Here?

Late in the evening of March 27th, 2013, the Boston Bruins had just finished losing to their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens, but things weren’t as bleak as they appeared.  It was an overtime loss, and gave the hated Habs the lead in the East, but still Cam Neely was seen smiling in the elevator after the tilt.  The reason for all the happiness:  Peter Chiarelli, the loved and yet maligned (at times) GM, had pulled off a deal that was going to add some scoring punch and veteran leadership to the local six.  Jarome Iginla was joining the team.  Shawn Thornton indicated as much.  Dougie Hamilton, during an interview on WEEI, alluded to it.

So where is Jarome Iginla…?

He’s wearing Black…that of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Buddy of, and Canadian National Team line-mates with Sidney Crosby, Jarome was  believed to fill the latter role again.  But how could this happen?  Aaron Ward of TSN (who had been taking a beating on Twitter in the Boston area) all but assured us that he would be wearing a spoked B.  Yet around 2:00am the morning of the 28th, the news came over my twitter feed…Iginla to the Pens.  And the deal…A first round pick and two prospects.  Come to find out the prospects aren’t even what scouts would call “elite”.

So where do the Bruins go from here?

The short answer was no one knew.  I don’t believe the Bruins brass even knew.  Steve Yzerman had stated that he was not trading Martin St. Louis, who would have been a nice addition to the squad.  Curtis Glencross’ name had been bandied about, but with the Iginla move, it didn’t seem likely that Calgary would deal another forward, especially one that had 21 points in 28 games (at the time), is affordable at 2.5 million dollars and has another year on his deal as well as a no movement clause.  To everyone paying attention, that left Jaromir Jagr as the only option, but not necessarily a viable one.  He’ll make a splash, i thought (albeit not as big as Iginla going to Jagr’s former club), but  at 4.5 million, he would be an expensive rental player and at 41 years of age, may not be playing anywhere next year.  I had heard mention of Eric Nystrom, also from Dallas, but this didn’t seem to be getting much traction.  From reports I’d read, he is a great locker room guy and a grinder on the ice, hard working third/fourth line type.  He only had 4 goals and 6 points on the season (again, at the time), having played in every game, which didn’t fill me with enthusiasm for his scoring touch.

As far as the defensive side of things, names like Mark Sreit had been thrown around.  With Lubomir Visnovsky signing an extension for another two years with the Isles, Mark was a possibility.   At issue here was that “the other” New York team and the Islanders were entrenched in a battle for the final playoff spot in the east.  As it turned out, both New York teams made it to the playoffs, and made their exits, with the Islanders leaving more of a positive impression on the hearts and minds of the fans and talking heads…

So things have come full circle.  The Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars for what is now a first round pick, Lane MacDermid, and Cody Payne.  And while Jaromir didn’t light it up as the fans had hoped, he did inject some excitement by coming to Boston.  Iginla did the same for Pittsburgh, showing up just as Crosby was getting hurt.  So, here in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bruins will get to see what they missed out on.  With a full complement of players, the Penguins are expected by most outside of Massachusetts to win the series.

The bonus to not making the Iginla deal is in what was not given away.  Matt Bartkowski has shown that he belongs in the NHL, and could be a top 4 defenseman on any squad.  He has shown poise and experience beyond his hockey league years.  Being encouraged to not play any style but his own (as was Torey Krug), Matt has made the second round his video résumé as to why he belongs.  The Bruins, while upset about how the whole deal went down with Calgary, can’t be too upset with how it turned out.  They kept talent that they were willing to part with for an aging hall of famer, who still has plenty of talent, and have achieved the same level as the team that won the Iginla sweepstakes.

The question at the trade deadline was…Where do they go from here?  The answer, it would appear, is the Stanley Cup finals.  If the Bruins can beat the team that beat them back in March.

L.W.L.

 

 

 

 

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