The Conference Finalists and the Importance of Match-Ups

There are a lot of good teams in the NHL, with the vast majority of them playing in the Western Conference. The length of the playoff rounds in the West is a testament to that. In fact, only one series played thus far took fewer than six games. (Detroit vs. Phoenix, first round). There is reason to believe that teams like Chicago and Detroit would still be in the post season mix were they fortunate enough to play in the Eastern Conference, though it’s of course impossible to know.

Whether things went right or went wrong, the most common answer is usually the simplest one. Often you’ll see analysts break down a series in a way that’s fairly one-sided. I think there is a need to keep things simple. It’s much easier to describe certain aspects of play (offence, physical play, etc) than it is to describe defensive breakdowns, poor coaching decisions, and other gaffes that are generally uninteresting and require more time and analysis. (It may also be due in part to the way we get our news – TV for instance is a medium which isn’t built for thorough analysis due to its short and varied segments). It’s much easier to say “Ryan Kesler dominated the Nashville Predators” and leave it at that; it’s more labour intensive to discuss Mike Fisher’s weaknesses – not that great in the faceoff circle, poor defensive awareness, overmatched physically, etc.

Similarly, for years, people have been questioning star players like the Sedins’ and Joe Thornton for their playoff failures, and partially or fully ignored their key opponents. In this year’s playoffs, the Sedins’ have faced the following defensive pairings: Continue reading

He Who Laughs First Laughs Last


In the 23 games played so far, the team that has scored first has won 20/23.

The only teams that have lost after scoring first are Phoenix (game 1), New York (game 1), and Chicago (game 3). Put another way, the only teams to win after allowing the first goal are Detroit, Washington, and Vancouver.

All three of the teams that have come back to win have a potent, quick-strike offence. Meanwhile, two of the three losers (Phoenix and New York) are talent-poor, and struggle to score more than 2 or 3 goals. And though Chicago still has a few elite forwards, they’ve lost all of their depth scoring, and don’t have the same ability to run away with a game as they did last year. 

All things equal (i.e you don’t have a horrid goaltender or a porous defence), it seems like offence rules the day.

1st Round Playoff Picks

Alright. Before making any picks, I’m going back to the well: history! Here are my picks from last year’s 1st round (in bold):

(1) Washington vs. (8) Montreal – Oops. Well not many saw that coming. Yes, Halak played out of his mind, but Gill, Gorges and others also blocked half the shots Washington threw at the net.

 (2) NJ vs. (7) Philly – Wrong again. Though at least I qualified it by saying the following:

“Chance of upset: Pretty good if Boucher can play 4 good games. (doubtful)”

Apparently not doubtful…(Remember, goaltending is fickle)

(3) Buffalo vs. (6) Boston – Boston underperformed during the season, and Buffalo won the division because they were the best of a sub-par group. These teams were evenly matched, and Boston played just a little bit better

(4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Ottawa – No surprises there

(1) San Jose vs. (2) Colorado – Colorado got an early lead with Anderson playing ridiculously, but San Jose overcame the early deficit

(2) Chicago vs. (7) Nashville – Chicago got a scare when Nashville nearly won game 5 to take a 3-2 lead, but they came back in that game and won in 6

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) Los Angeles – a tight series (2-2 after 4 games) but Vancouver pulled away late

(4) Phoenix vs. (5) Detroit – Close series which went to game 7, but the final game was a blowout Continue reading

How to Pick a Playoff Contender


People often talk about ‘momentum’ heading into playoffs. Momentum is an interesting concept. You can often see it shifting within a game when a big save on one end leads to a big goal at the other end. Momentum also can affect a series, as the Anaheim Ducks proved to us in 2003 as they took out nearly everyone in their path. (Yeah it was goaltending, but the players had to make a few good plays too).

You also hear people talk about a team ‘having momentum’ heading into the playoffs. I don’t buy it. Here are a few examples to support my case.

In 2008, Washington finished the season by going 11-1-0! Ovechkin was unstoppable, Huet was playing lights out, and most people expected them to make a bit of a run. They played Philadelphia and lost 1st round. Last year, Detroit finished the year 17-4-1. In round 1, they squeaked by Phoenix in 7 games, then lost to San Jose in 5 only games. (Though San Jose won each game by only 1 goal). Continue reading

NHL Playoff Preview – Contenders

It’s never too early to start placing your bets. I placed mine back in July once free agency had ended. At that point I determined that one of four teams would win the Stanley Cup in 2011 – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, or Detroit. All four had had recent playoff success (all but Vancouver had been to the SCF in the last 2 years; Vancouver lost to the cup winner in round 2 in ’07 and ’10). All four had elite forwards and solid defences. Two teams – Vancouver and Philadelphia (both of which seriously challenged Chicago last year) – were on the rise, while the other two looked to regain their hegemony (having met in the finals in ’08 and ’09).

Fast forward to March, and very little has changed. While there are a number of good teams in the Western Conference, Vancouver and Detroit are the class of the group. That doesn’t mean that those teams will face off in the conference finals, (1 vs 2 rarely occurs), but regardless of who else may go deep in the west, I would be shocked not to see one of those teams in the final. Continue reading