I'm not a fan of link dumps and bullet point posts because I find them to be lazy, throwaway posts. However, being that I only have one column per week and a lot of things to write about, I'm going to do a bullet point post with some analysis to it, rather than just a couple of sentences with links. Today I'm focusing mostly on the Chicago - Vancouver and the Pittsburgh - Montreal series.
- Thanks to national television, the Vancouver Canucks are showing the entire North American audience why they've become the most-hated team in the Northwest, without exception. The undisciplined, dirty tactics that they've employed has been an embarrassment to the team and an embarrassment to hockey. Alexandre Burrows' play has been especially disgusting, and he's displaying his own shameful brand of "hockey" for all to see. Whether he's cross-checking people in the face or in the back of the head, or pulling hair in fights like a four-year-old girl, Burrows has finally been revealed to hockey watchers as the trashy player that the Northwest has known about for a couple of years. Burrows is vigorously defended in the Vancouver media and by Vancouver fans when they say that he is an "expert pest' and that he "draws penalties." John Fischer from In Lou We Trust found that Burrows did draw penalties this season, but he took more than he drew, and if more referees would have stepped up and put an end to his diving antics, he would have had far more penalties taken. He's not effective as a pest and as far as on-ice behavior goes, Burrows makes Sean Avery look like Paul Kariya. The Vancouver media loves to espouse the virtues of Burrows' gritty game and his difficult journey to the NHL, but if the by-product of that journey is a player like Alexandre Burrows, the NHL should barricade the road he came in on.
- Canucks fans continue to defend Burrows' play and continue to show everyone why they're the worst fans in Canada. Sean Avery is far more reviled by his own fans and he's never come close to doing the things Burrows does on the ice on a nightly basis.
- All of a sudden, Evgeni Malkin is Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin all rolled into one. The media is starting to point to Malkin as the culprit behind the Penguins goal-scoring struggles against Montreal and this morning, rumblings in Pittsburgh have cast Malkin as the guy letting Crosby down. "He's only scoring on the power play!" was the universal refrain last night and this morning it's been "He's not willing to do the hard work and get into the dirty areas to score goals." During the regular seaon, Malkin fired 129 shots at the net at even strength from an average distance of 25.2 feet. The Chart below shows Malkin's shots per game and shooting distance from four different sample sizes:
|2008 Reg. Season||1.9||28.1'|
|2009 Reg. Season||1.8||25.2'|
Not only is Malkin shooting more often in the Montreal series than before, he's shooting from closer to the net. The "tough areas" argument is one that's quite easy to dispute and people making it should really consider confirmation bias and the availability of stats before making it.
- Chicago should have closed the series out against the Canucks already, but they've failed to show up for the first periods of games one and five. It's surprising that their two worst efforts have come on home ice. The Blackhawks are the most talented team in the league from top to bottom and they've been this way before. Last year some people pointed at the coach when things went wrong for the Hawks. If Head Coach Joel Quenneville struggles again in the conference finals, will the heat fall on him?
- The Contrarian Goaltender has an article up about why fans ascribe certain characteristics to underdog teams. Considering the storylines from the San Jose - Colorado and the Washington - Montreal series, the article is a must read. The mainstream media, especially the television media who is always the first to create the narrative, painted the Canadiens as a plucky, hard-working, gritty group of shot-blocking warriors with more desire to win than the Capitals. Even though the pictures on the screen betrayed everything that they were saying - the Caps were outplaying them in every period, at every turn, almost on every shift. The same thing happened with the Avs. The Sharks outchanced the Avs by almost a 2-1 margin and the shots, Corsi and Fenwick were all dominant in the Sharks favor. But the story was about the team speed of the Avs, the Avs' willingness to do anything to win and the Avs' willingness to block shots. To quote the article:
When the underdog that is supposedly trying to so hard and giving it their all can't even get the puck away from a team that is allegedly made up entirely of soft players that don't even care, it either indicates the first team is really, really terrible or that the subjective observation is wrong.
- Some watchers have talked about the Penguins needing to get back to the three center rotation that Dan Bylsma employed during the 2008-2009 playoffs, when he cycled Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal through the fourth line, getting his best players on the ice more often, creating mismatches and giving the opposing coach one more thing to figure out. While the mismatches may still be a valid strategy, the time on ice argument is not. The chart below compares the total ice time and even strength ice time for the three centers, and as you can see, both total and even strength ice time is up, even when accounting for overtime games:
|Sidney Crosby||Evgeni Malkin||Jordan Staal|
|2009 Even Strength/Game||15:49||15:54||15:22|
|2010 Even Strength/Game||17:25||16:11||14:43|