Well, maybe after a 46-save performance, it’s time to replace Tomas Vokoun and go back to Marc-Andre Fleury. Win, and you’re in, after all, and the coach Dan Bylsma has to go with the hot hand. Vokoun stopped 27 shots in the regulation period, but not the 28th.
Of course… that’s absurd. Tomas Vokoun has been excellent since taking over in relief of Fleury in advance of the fifth game of the first round against the New York Islanders. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Penguins had won four consecutive, finishing off the pesky New York Islanders and taking the first two from the Pesky Sens.
At the trade deadline I bet a friend of mine straight up, taking The Field vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the New York Islanders made it 5-4 in the fourth game of the series, I thought I might have him beat. “Surely, these are just the Islanders,” I thought. “Good as they are, one of the Bruins or Senators is going to have to take them down, right?”
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When the bells rang out in Nassau Coliseum to indicate that it was six-past-Fleury on Tuesday night, a very real question starting surfacing around the hockey world: who in the hell do the Penguins start in Game 5?
We now have our answer:
So what now? Is this the right call?
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(Click to enlarge)
Since the last lockout, the NHL’s Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year has only gone to a non-forward twice (defenseman Tyler Myers, 2009-10, Steve Mason the year before). And really, it’s tough to pick a d-man because of the glamour-factor. “Oh, he was reliable and super-young, neat-o.”
Well, the Wild have launched a campaign for one of their own to break that mold, 19-year-old d-man Jonas Brodin (because apparently they’d like to owe him more when his entry level deal is up?). One of our best measures of NHL value these days is time-on-ice, especially for defenseman. The Wild made their case in the infographic above (“he’s super young and plays a ton”). Is Jonathan Huberdeau’s 28 points in 46 games enough to top him?
Nearly a decade ago, Martin St. Louis had a pretty good year. He was 29-years-old and playing on a darn good hockey team. He climbed from being very much not a point-per-game player to far more than that. He led the NHL in scoring at the end of the regular season (right when it was at its pre-lockout slogging worst – 94 points got the job done), edging out Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Sakic, Marcus Nasland and a 25-year-old Marian Hossa. He scored 24 points in 23 playoff games, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, then he hopped on a Pegasus and flew to Mount Money where he was greeted by Victoria’s Secret models on clouds of fluffy cotton candy. If my memory serves me correct, anyway.
But he didn’t get fat and happy and watch his stats go in the tank as so many NHLers do once their age begins with the number three. He’s played in 613 NHL games since (only missing seven games, including a run of five straight 82 game seasons), and scored 651 points in those contests. The Lightning have only been back to playoffs three times since The Year, but it certainly hasn’t been for a lack of him contributing.
But all NHL players enter into decline eventually (oh humanity, you cruel beast), and 37 seems like about the time you’d expect to see some. Or like, lots. But nutrition and training have changed over the years, and we’re seeing more and more older players maintain value into their later years. Teemu Selanne was nearly a point-per-game guy last year over age 40, Jaromir Jagr is still doin’ it to it, and Patrick Elias remains a viable offensive threat. And if there’s anyone who seems to be into fitness and nutrition…
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Last season the Florida Panthers traded for more-or-less every available B-level player and paid them like B+ guys to get to the salary floor, then won the Southeast Division. They had some pretty good names – Upshall, Versteeg, Skill, Weiss, Goc, Kopecky, Fleishmann and so on – so you could see how they finished on top at the end of last season, and how they would again this year.
Only this year…they were the odd team out. Hell, they’re last in the Eastern Conference (injuries!), which they’re probably okay with.
The rest of the division used Florida’s decline to take over the top spot.
All of them.
Florida won it last year, and every team has since had the division lead at the end of a month. The musical chairs resulted in the Washington Capitals finally putting together a run of good hockey and winning the division, and in turn, the three seed. They’ve now won the division five of the last six years, which is good if you’re into the whole “getting a good seed” thing.
Earlier this season, I had a very brief sit down with Columbus and explained a reality: Detroit is just not that into you. As a rival, I mean.
The Wings once had a rivalry with Colorado that mattered, so I guess they might consider them a top opponent. They once had one with Chicago, so there’s that too. I think they might even consider St. Louis a rival. Regardless, I don’t think they’ve historically had you very high on their list of teams they’re concerned about.
Why’s that, you ask?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary “rivalry” is defined as “not that.”
I did a little check to ensure that was right, and check this out – it’s never been close. Chart time! Read the rest of this entry »
The only way in which the Calgary Flames aren’t entering full rebuild mode is verbally, but whatever spin they want to put on it, they done blowed up the building, and have heavy machinery standing by to clear it out before starting over. They traded (insert recognizable NHL names) for (the opposite), and set their sites on a high draft pick this year. Only…
…that. Players who normally wouldn’t get a ton of minutes are getting them, and like a team with many injuries (think Ottawa Senators), the fill-ins are playing as hard as they possibly can and succeeding through sheer will and determination, trying to prove that they deserve the time they’re getting now, as opposed to the time they were getting before.
But there’s a reason they were getting those minutes before: that’s usually what they deserve.
Unfortunately for the Flames who would’ve loved to play terribly down the stretch and draft Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones (not impossible given the lottery system, but the lower you finish the better), the season isn’t long enough for them to get to the part where reality rears its ugly head and they start losing. They’ve gained 8 points of the 10 available since I tweeted what you see above (and won the game prior, which inspired that), and have climbed to 12th, one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers (!). Read the rest of this entry »