New York block a lot of shots:
When you dissect the data of the 1 vs. 8 series in the East, you notice something is strange. It was a very low-event sort of series and not a terrific amount of quality chances, just a lot of pucks hopping over sticks and blocked shots from in tight.
Lots of those actually, particularly in the Rangers end. New York had a 6-chance advantage over the Senators in scoring chances (counted by my friend Rob Pettapiece) at even strength, despite being massively out-played in possession. At 5-on-5, Ottawa had 366 shot attempts to New York’s 264.
So why the discrepancy in scoring chances? Because John Tortorella loves shot blocks. The Rangers blocked 116 shots to Ottawa’s 59, a decisive advantage not only numerically, but also as a percentage of total shots taken (32% to 22%). This was prominently on display in Game Seven of the series: the Sens fired 55 shots at Henrik Lundqvist 5-on-5, but only 33 of them got through. Am I usually a staunch advocate of shot blocks? Heck no, but the Rangers found success in limiting Ottawa’s chances by getting their bodies or sticks in every shooting lane.
Of course, then you leave yourself liable to a bad bounce. They did only beat the 8 seed by a single goal…
The Boston Bruins aren’t invincible:
Well, maybe they are, who knows. Back in January, the Bruins were shooting 11.4% as a team, severely impacting our ability to recognize what this team was: an above-average possession team with terrific goaltending. Neutralize the goaltending advantage by having somebody play just as hot at the other end, like Braden Holtby, and anything can happen.
Let’s not be too quick to humanize the Bruins, however. They were defending champions for a reason and a superior team to Washington in the series. Unfortunately for them, every game was close, and sometimes in close games, you lose in overtime.
Holtby’s even strength save percentage was .940 in the series, compared to Tim Thomas’ mere human .924.
Florida, Florida, Florida:
This was an awful series. Neither team was at all good and outside of a few decent plays, even the double OT in Game 7 wasn’t all that mesmerizing. The teams traded dump-ins and bad ice prevented any team from gaining any sort of offensive advantage.
By the way, Florida, who made the playoffs on the heels of 18 overtime losses, conveniently bowed out on the strength of two extra time goals by New Jersey. The Panthers’ OT record in the regular season was 1-7.
Philadelphia’s scorers are going to have an easy time again:
The Flyers absolutely torched Marc-André Fleury, who had a regular season even strength save percentage of .915. Martin Brodeur was the only regular starting goaltender who was lower, putting up a .911 in his 59 games.
We saw the Flyers walk over Pittsburgh in the first round, and they get to go up against another goaltender who may be a little suspect. Brodeur has seen a lot of post-season success in his life, but he’s also seen his share of post-season collapses. I think the Flyers are in for another big series. Maybe not as big, but you know.
The Los Angeles Kings were severely underrated:
Not many pundits picked the Los Angeles Kings to beat the Vancouver Canucks. According to this, just 15% of them were brave enough to go L.A. Yet the Kings were a dominant possession team and were one of the best in the league after having picked up Jeff Carter at the trade deadline.
Also, this will mark the second consecutive year the Canucks will have lost in the playoffs to the Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender (prospective, at this point, but I don’t see how Quick doesn’t win the award). That’s a real shame. It almost makes you forget that they lost in the two years before that to reverse-Vezina winners Antti Niemi and Nikolai Khabibulin.
L.A won in five despite running into .940 goaltending. That’s impressive.
I didn’t watch the St. Louis and San Jose series at all:
Actually, I watched Games 1 and 2. Was the rest of it any good?
Nashville/Phoenix will be a good series:
I think people may be overstating how defensively Nashville and Phoenix play. Sure, the teams were dead-last and second-to-last in shots for per game in the first round, but they also ranked pretty low in shots given up as well, meaning that there was at least something going on in these games. Whenever I counted scoring chances for either of these two teams this season, there was always a vicious amount.
Whether they have any success or not with the shots they do take from the inside, there’s no denying that they do create wonderful chances and give up a bunch. Can they help it their goalies each have potential to steal a game or two?
Detroit lost playing their own game:
Detroit are known for playing a puck possession game that results in a lot of shots at the opposition net, a lot of cycling, and generally keeping the puck out of their own end. Well, they succeeded in doing that this series, but as Nashville has done all year, they find a way to get it done, despite being outshot 85-124 at 5-on-5 this series.
The Predators have been turning opposing goaltenders to dust all season. Just Boston and Tampa Bay had higher shooting rates. Will their luck ever turn, or will we have to get used to the Predators as a juggernaut?