Steve Laidlaw checking in once again to free up Dobber to continue working on the Prospects Report. So hopefully his work on the always fantastic Prospects Report makes up for you guys being stuck with me.
A couple of 2-1 hockey games tonight in the NHL. Doesn’t get much tighter than that.
Let’s start with Boston-New York. I didn’t watch the game so you’ll have to bear with me on some of these observations as they are mostly based on highlights.
All three goals came off of long shots with a ton of traffic in front of the net. With Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist in net you pretty much have to blind them to get one past them, the best of the best right there.
The game winner was a truly weird one. Follow the bouncing puck:
It’s important to note however, the importance of the faceoff win by the Bruins to get that in zone possession and then once again the traffic in front of the net. Pretty simple stuff when you boil it right down. Little battles win games come playoff time and the Bruins are great at winning those little battles.
It was winger Shawn Thornton who won that faceoff. That’s right, Thornton, he of the career 45.2% faceoff success rate on just 168 career draws. Shame on Derick Brassard for losing that one. It happens, of course, but that’s still one you’ve got to win.
That’s really a faceoff your big money centerman should be taking but the descent into irrelevance for Brad Richards continues. He skated just 8:10 on Tuesday, a new low for these playoffs. He’s obviously banged up and it wouldn’t shock me if it was something pretty bad. Good on him for continuing to battle. I actually think this makes him a solid buy low for next year because a lot of people are going to have a real hard-on for Derek Stepan and even Brassard after these playoffs.
But really, Richards had a decent season. I know he struggled a lot in the middle of the season but between the compacted schedule (limited practice time/no training camp), his new teammates (Rick Nash) and just general ups and downs you can start to explain away some of his scoring issues. Ultimately, he still got 34 points in 46 games. He seems a pretty good bet for 60 points again, at the very least.
Of course, the Rangers could buy him out with their second amnesty buyout and use that cap space to re-sign Stepan and fellow RFA Ryan McDonagh. Both of those guys need big pay raises but no matter what happens, Richards is still a top six center and at just 33 years old I refuse to believe that he is completely done. He’s got too much hockey sense to not Selanne his way to a second life as a sneaky veteran producer.
As for Stepan, yeah, he’s the bomb, those hard-ons are so worth it. He’s meshed brilliantly with Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan as that line is playing heavy minutes for the Rangers. Stepan managed five shots on goal and dominated the faceoff circle. I’d imagine that Nash-Stepan pairing remains a thing well into the future because it’s worked too well for it to not be.
The one thing that concerns me is that Stepan isn’t necessarily a star. His 44 points in 48 games this season certainly give one the sense that he has that potential and I’m not saying that he doesn’t have that potential but sample size alarm bells are going off in my head. I also look at his high shooting percentage this season (16.7%) and envision regression.
Furthermore, for all his skill, he’s still a dependable defensive player and relies a lot on high effort/lunch pail play to generate his opportunities. I just wonder if that play doesn’t take a physical toll on him so he never reaches his maximum potential. And the Rangers’ human shield defense certainly doesn’t help matters. You could be looking at the next Shawn Horcoff or Ryan Kesler – just something to consider.
And as for Brassard, I still want to see what kind of minutes he gets next season before really falling hard for him.
Oh and one more shout out to Ryan Callahan, because one isn’t enough – he was scoreless on Tuesday but fired four SOG and landed seven hits – what a dreamboat. His goal on Sunday made me absolutely melt.
This isn’t based on anything I saw in Tuesday’s game but rather just a general observation – how much longer do you think Jaromir Jagr can keep playing?
Jagr is a great skater, keeps himself in fantastic shape and has one of the most dominant gluteus in the whole game. He gets the puck and then just plays keep away. It’s almost rude the way he can dominate the puck with his blend of size, strength, skill and edge-work. So long as he stays smart with his diet and exercise I bet he could play three more years like this easily. The team that signs him just has to acknowledge they can’t force him into 82 games a year if they want him there for playoffs. Look at Teemu Selanne this year.
Teemu almost has to be done after this season. Too many miles these past few years trying to pick up the slack for the maddeningly inconsistent trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. They should have been sheltering Selanne, not the other way around.
Back to Jagr though. Treat him like you would a starting goalie. Give him 60 games a year to keep him in game shape and then bust him out for the playoffs. I would guarantee Jagr comes back for one more year at least so he stays in shape for the Olympics. That’s why I won’t write off Selanne playing one more year either but when it’s time it’s time. With these older guys sometimes their body just makes the decision for them
What the bleep is going on with Tyler Seguin? Seriously, I’m asking. He only played 10:41 on Tuesday. Again, I didn’t see the game but this is now the second straight game where he’s had his ice time severely cut. He’s basically a glorified fourth liner now. I know he’s been snake-bitten but to me it hasn’t been from a lack of generating chances. He actually managed four SOG on Tuesday so even with the minutes crunch he’s still firing the puck a ton.
Seguin has no goals and just one assist these playoffs but as I said he’s been generating chances. Through 10 playoff games he’s fired 39 SOG. You can do the math. He’s getting the puck on goal.
I think you are looking at a prime buy low candidate if there ever was one. Coming off a disappointing season (32 points in 48 games) followed by a disappointing playoffs, you know people are down on him but he’s going to be a centerpiece in Boston – his contract mandates that he will be if his talent doesn’t. And the talent IS still there.
Another guy to think about buying low on or maybe you won’t even have to buy at all but rather just take out a flyer on is Carl Soderberg. I don’t know if he’ll be a success or not but he signed a three year deal and it seems like he’s going to give the NHL a real shot. What I do know is that he came over into a situation where he would almost certainly fail.
Soderberg has spent over a decade playing in Europe, learning how to play the game their way on big ice. There was always going to be an adjustment period. I don’t question that Soderberg learned a lot of valuable things playing in Sweden and certainly he knows what it takes to be a pro but no doubt he learned some habits that may not even be bad in Sweden but won’t play the same in the NHL. He needed a good training camp and then some to really learn to play over here for the Bruins. Instead he got thrown into a playoff race. It’s of no shock to me that he’s yet to play a playoff game.
So like I said, take a flyer on him now that his owner has soured on him or whatever the case may be.
On to the late game, which I did get to watch.
Martin Havlat sat out again… injured… what else is new? This guy bores me.
Brent Burns scored a goal and leveled six hits, including a massive one on Brad Richardson. No Youtube video up yet so here’s one on Ovechkin from a couple of years ago instead.
Ray Ferraro keeps harping on and on about how these ass-checks by Burns remind him so much of Rob Blake. He’s right, that’s exactly who I think of every time I see Burns throw one of these hits but maybe stop saying every time Mr. Ferraro? We all get the reference now and if we don’t then it’s probably because we were too young to remember Rob Blake and his devastating ass-checks.
I do wonder though, if the ass-check isn’t the new way we should be teaching hitting. I don’t love the aspect of it that you can go too low and take out a guy’s knees but it’s a great way to make sure you remove the head from the equation as the principle point of contact. There are still going to be whiplash effects so you won’t remove the concussion risk completely but at least it’s a way to level a big hit legally in the NHL.
I also like the aspect of it whereby you maintain a low center of gravity through the hit making it much more likely that you, the hitter, will stay on your feet. That makes the check more purposeful as it allows you to then pursue the puck now that you’ve separated the opponent from it.
Anyways, that’s just my little crackpot theory that I’d love to hear your take on. Surely, “more ass-checks” isn’t THE ANSWER when it comes to concussions but I just like the idea of it gaining more prominence in the game.
More on Burns – I harped on this last week but you really can’t give the Sharks coaching staff enough credit for rolling the dice and putting him up front. He’s been an absolute wrecking ball. You know that when GM Doug Wilson went out and acquired him and his big salary it was to chew 20+ minutes a night on the blue line. Instead the Sharks have gone with a committee approach on the blue line and Burns is up front wreaking havoc for like 17 minutes a night. I’m not sure that’s worth the nearly $6 million a year investment they’ve made in him but it’s working right now.
Digging deeper the Sharks are technically still getting a good return on their trade investment in Burns at the very least. Most pundits didn’t like the deal, even though Burns filled a huge need for the Sharks and they really must not like it much now that Burns isn’t even filling that need but consider who the Sharks traded for a second. In the Burns deal they dealt:
Charlie Coyle, Devon Setoguchi and the pick that became Zach Phillips
Phillips is still a ways off from NHL play, Setoguchi was obviously expendable and Burns is now seemingly the physical menace that Coyle projects to be. They essentially got an expensive advance on a position they clearly needed filled.
Of course, you could certainly argue that Ryane Clowe was supposed to be filling that void all along but he’s hurt and the Rangers are clearly missing him and I suspect the Sharks would be missing him too, had they not dealt him and replaced him internally (Burns) and externally (Torres). I am pretty sure Clowe was always hurt. It’s this suspicion that kept me from chasing him as a buy low candidate in several leagues this season. That seemed to backfire as Clowe was fairly productive down the stretch for my competitors. I take some solace in seeing his injury taking a toll now. My logic wasn’t entirely wrong.
I mentioned above that the Sharks have gone with a committee approach on defense. That includes Dan Boyle who saw just 19:53 on Tuesday. The idea being that they can get more out of him in fewer minutes than they would skating him 25+ minutes a night like you know they want to. On one hand this may reduce Boyle’s upside going forward, on the other hand, you have to like what it could mean for his longevity.
Ho hum, 27+ minutes for Drew Doughty. It’s annoying that his fantasy value has taken such a huge hit but he’s probably the best defenseman in the game so suck it up and put on your hockey fan hat and enjoy.
Slava Voynov skated just 17:36 on Tuesday. I don’t think there is cause for much alarm as this has happened on occasion. Voynov still regularly sees over 20 minutes a night for the Kings. I’ve got a Cage Match article featuring Voynov coming out today, suffice to say I’m a fan. Voynov would have had a goal (or an assist) but had it waved off by an official’s error.
I’ll see if I can post the video later but I’m sure we can all agree there was no reason that goal shouldn’t have counted.
Mike Richards scored the lone goal for the Kings. That makes nine points in 10 games this post season. What a big game player. He’s always had the ability to flip that switch come playoff time but I think now more than ever that becomes important. I talked about how high effort guys can tend to break down, well he’s another one to be wary of. I wouldn’t be shocked if he never scores a point per game in a season ever again. He’s got to pace himself during the regular season or he’ll completely burn out. Come playoff time though, flip that switch and he becomes another animal. All these lengthy playoff runs won’t help him any either between the increased wear and tear and the shortened off-season. That’s why the Kings benefitted a great deal from this year’s shortened season.
Speaking of guys who can flip that switch – Dustin Penner was the guy who banged home that would have been goal/assist by Voynov. Would the Kings dare to keep giving him three million bucks a year to coast through the regular season, knowing what a menace he can be come playoff time?
With the cap crunch coming next season and extensions needed for RFAs Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez, Voynov and Jonathan Bernier, I would guess that Penner becomes a casualty.
I for one would welcome him back to Edmonton, just not right away. This team needs to get to the playoffs and to do that they need guys who can compete every night for 82 games. That’s not Penner. Once they get to that level though, I think his physical dynamic is one that every team can use come playoff time. So he is one UFA I am very much looking forward to tracking this summer.
For purely selfish reasons I am a bit disappointed with the direction the playoff series from Tuesday night are headed.
I picked the Rangers and with the Bruins up 3-0 that is basically over, barring a historic collapse, making my second whiff this post-season. My first miss was the Rangers-Capitals series. I suppose you could say these Rangers have just flummoxed me.
The reality is that I just overthought how physical the Bruins-Leafs series was and assumed the Bruins would be banged up. If they are they aren’t showing it. It’s the Rangers who are banged up and on their way out.
The Kings series is technically trending in my favour since the Sharks tied the series up at 2-2 but I find it hard to believe you could come away from these past two games thinking the Sharks were the better team. It’s definitely close between these two but the Kings seem to be controlling the play more, even if the results haven’t shown up on the score board.
The irony of course is that the one game I do think the Sharks were better in was Game Two, which they blew in tragic fashion. Imagine they won that game and then snuck out these two? No you’re right, hypotheticals are really stupid – don’t imagine they won that game.
I feel like I should mention something about the Memorial Cup and how dominant Nathan Mackinnon looks and really how dominant the Halifax Mooseheads look but I’m no prospects expert. Like I said in the outset, Dobber and the gang are hard at work on the Prospects Report. It comes out in a week and a half. You’ll get all the prospect information that you can handle and then some if you pick it up. I can’t recommend this product highly enough.
Okay, okay. One little blurb. For fantasy purposes I am treating Mackinnon like Jonathan Toews and Jonathan Drouin like Patrick Kane. Who you picking first if you get the chance?
Adding a couple of videos that I've promised. First the Brent Burns ass-check and you''ll see in this one that it is specifically more ass than hip, which is why I make that distinction. More on that in the comments.
And here is the disallowed Kings goal. Had this one counted their third period goal would have... blah, blah. Hypothetical, hypothetical... I promised you that I would cut this out. So just watch in horror.