We'll recap the two Conference Final Series openers momentarily, but we've been covering coaches like crazy over at CanucksArmy.com this week and I figured I'd point you to a more general post on the subject of "the impact of a coaching change" written yesterday by Blake Murphy. The results of Blake's number crunching are intuitive - coaches generally shake up the dressing rooms they enter: surprise, surprise - but it's a really insightful read nonetheless.

 

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While the games were, obviously, the main event on Saturday there was also the "unsigned draft pick deadline" for 2011 NHL draft picks. I put together a list of unsigned draft picks who will either reenter the draft or become UFAs for the Sporting News.

 

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There's some surprising names on that list, like mobile defenceman Zach Yuen who may be selected even earlier in the 2013 draft than he was a couple of years ago. The Jets traded up to land Yuen in 2011, and his game seemed to be progressing nicely. Really curious to hear what happened there...

 

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The other unsigned pick that I'm very surprised to see re-enter the draft is Belleville Bulls centreman - and 2011 Detroit Red Wings pick - Alan Quine. Brendan Gaunce earned the defensive accolades this past season for Belleville, and for good reason since he's a two-way force at the OHL level, but Quine did the majority of the defensive heavy lifting from what I've observed. Quine consistently soaked up the majority of defensive zone starts for Belleville in the handful of games that I watched this season, and generally did pretty well to limit the damage as the Bulls third-line centreman. Quine strikes me as a player who is a pretty safe bet to develop into a fourth-line centre at the NHL level, with some penalty-killing and defensive value. I'd further posit that he's got some top-9 potential (with a lot more uncertainty in that projection). I guess the Red Wings system is deep enough, and they were close enough to the fifty contract max, that they felt they could pass up on a nice asset. Expect to see Quine taken off the board in the first 100 picks on June 30th though.

 

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Okay enough foreplay, let's get to Saturday night's action. We'll start in the West where the Blackhawks only won by a single goal but basically ran the defending Stanley Cup Champions off the ice in game one of the 2013 Western Conference Finals. At even-strength the Blackhawks controlled well north of 60% of the shot attempts and the actual shots on goal too! The Keith-Seabrook pairing led the way for Chicago from a possession standpoint, but damn did that Toews, Hossa, Bryan Bickell line look dominant as well.

 

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Here's an odd tidbit from Chicago's game one victory: Keith and Seabrook were matched up primarily against the Jeff Carter-Mike Richards line (I'd describe it as a soft match, since the Blackhawks had home ice). Meanwhile Coach Q used Oduya and Hjalmarsson more often against the Kopitar line, which, yeah you just don't see the Kopitar line draw a secondary pair as their primary matchup very often.

 

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The Handzus, Kane, Patrick Sharp line enjoyed the Sedin treatment (and then some) with nine offensive zone starts, and zero starts in their own end of the rink. Despite the line's offensive oriented deployment, the Handzus line came out "even" (mostly) in their matchup against the Voynov pairing and the Stoll line primarily. While the Kings were otherwise stomped on Saturday night,

if their third line can battle Patrick Kane's group to a draw with any regularity in this series that bodes very well for L.A. If Sutter just matches Kopitar more firmly against the Toews line that could, in theory, free up Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to wreck the likes of Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger...

 

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Really good post game take on Los Angeles' puck possession issues from Jesse Spector. I'd call L.A.'s postseason puck possession issues "inexplicable" if not for the fact that Robyn Regehr continues to play on the top-pairing with Drew Doughty. What's that about? Over the past two seasons in Buffalo, Eastern Conference clubs have regularly given Regehr the "Jeff Schultz treatment" which mostly entails dumping the puck into his corner, beating him to it, and generating scoring chances as a result.

 

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To continue to riff on this theme, let's check in on the data. In nearly two-hundred even strength minutes when Robyn Regehr was paired with Drew Doughty towards the tail end of the regular season, the Los Angeles Kings controlled just about 51% of shot attempts and were outscored by the opposition. Compare that with the Muzzin-Doughty pairing which, in nearly 450 even-strength minutes outscored their opponents 2.5 to 1 and controlled over 63% of shot attempts. 63 percent!

 

This a no brainer if there ever was one...

 

(Data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

 

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I tend to think that Marcus Kruger has surpassed Dave Bolland as a defensive specialist, and I wonder if that might spell the end for Bolland in Chicago. Bear with me for a moment, but I think Kruger is legitimately better than Bolland is at this point in their respective careers. Kruger is also younger and cheaper to boot.

 

On home ice in game one, so with no need to zone match, Coach Q counted on Kruger to start in the defensive zone eight times at even-strength. The Blackhawks only had twelve draws in their own end at evens in game one, so Kruger was on the ice for the vast majority of the club's even-strength defensive zone faceoffs. Despite the difficulty of his role, Kruger was on the ice for four Los Angeles shot attempts in ten minutes of ice-time. Total. That's ridiculous, but also par for the course for Kruger this year.

 

There are essentially no centreman on the free agent market this summer, certainly none that have as good a resume as Bolland does and will cost less than 3.5 million against the cap next season. With Kruger's emergence and Bolland's failure to emerge as an "answer" in Chicago's top-six, I wonder if perhaps the return for Bolland's services on the trade market might outweigh his hockey value at this point.

 

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So the Eastern Conference Final between the Bruins and Penguins could be pretty interesting, eh? Crosby jawing with Rask and Chara, Malkin fighting (and pummeling) Patrice Bergeron, and a variety of controversial hits both ways. The temperature at this series reached "maximum" by mid-way through the third period, and it's only going up from here on out, which owns if you like your hockey with a side of drama.

 

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This Boston v. Pittsburgh series was billed as a defensive team against an offensive team and I'm not sure why everyone is still so insistent on mischaracterizing the Boston Bruins. Yeah the Bruins have stellar goaltending and two of the best two-way players in the game in Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Yes, they're one of the toughest teams in the league. But toughness and defence is only part of the puzzle for Boston and skill play and an ability to consistently generate offense is a key component of their game too. It has been for years. This is a team with the firepower to, say, score three goals in ten minutes in a critical game seven. And no Don Cherry, it wasn't Lucic's pummeling Dion Phaneuf that swung that seventh game. I feel like "skilled" is a dirty word in Boston or something, but the Bruins often win as a result of theirs.

 

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Look no further than David Krejci, for no reason at all the most unheralded Bruin despite leading the team in playoff scoring by a wide margin the past three years, to understand why this B's team continues to pile up postseason victories. The remarkable hand eye coordination Krejci flashed on the game sealing goal - instead of trying to bat it out of the air, Krejci picked the perfect moment and made contact with the puck the moment it hit the ice and did so while battling through traffic in the slot - was par for the course. Also par for the course? How pretty much everyone in the media and in the Boston media in particular will focus on the Bergeron fight and Chara bending down to chat with Crosby rather than talking about how Krejci's skill tilted another close game in Boston's favour.

 

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Hockey is weird in that the game decided by three goals on Saturday was way closer than the game decided by one. By Cory Sznajder's count, the Penguins actually out-chanced the Bruins in game one, though they relied on their power-play to do so. Tuuka Rask was phenomenal in game one but don't be fooled by results: the Pittsburgh power-play was dominant and could blow the roof off this series yet.

 

Fact is, the Bruins PK hasn't been that good in the postseason (except against the Rangers whose power-play is a bad joke). If the Penguins manage to generate pressure and scoring chances at five-on-four with the regularity they did on Saturday, they will break through. In a series that promises to be extraordinarily testy, that could prove decisive.

 

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Some debate on Twitter about whether or not Bergeron's decision to fight Malkin was the right one, and I think it was a fine tactical call. Yeah Patrice Bergeron drew a hard-match against Sidney Crosby in game one (spent 57% of his EV TOI matched up agaist #87), but realistically Pittsburgh's biggest advantage in this series is that they have more forward depth (thanks to Malkin and Crosby) than Pittsburgh's blue-line cast can theoretically contain. Boston, after all, only has one Zdeno Chara while Pittsburgh has two bonafide all world centreman.

 

Any time the Bruins can take one of Malkin or Crosby off of the ice for five minutes - especially if they're up a goal - that's a trade they'll take, even at the expense of Bergeron. Partly as a result of missing an extended period of time, Malkin only saw a tick over four minutes of even-strength ice-time against defenders not named Chara in game one. That's a win for Pittsburgh, frankly.

 

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One more note on a similar theme: Chara was glued on Malkin (62% of Malkin's EV TOI was spent head-to-head against Chara), while he only saw Crosby relatively occassionally (40% of Crosby's EV TOI was spent head-to-head against Chara). I wonder if that's in part a function of Crosby drawing Patrice Bergeron as a hard-match, or if Claude Julien has decided to make shutting down Malkin's line the focal point of Boston's defensive game plan...

 

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Neither Patrice Bergeron nor David Krejci started a single even-strength shift in the offensive zone in game one, which is wild.

 

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Finally, in an interview on the Team 1040 on Friday afternoon, Vancouver Canucks assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman was asked sort of vaguely about compliance buyouts, or the possibility of retaining salary in a trade, or the possibility of acquiring a player on a bad deal via trade for the purposes of using a compliance buyout on said player. "You asked about a number of weapons, so to speak," Gilman responded "that exist in the arsenal that is the collective bargaining agreement." What a fun description!

 

I'm curious to see if the new collective bargaining agreement contributes to a more eventful, interesting summer of player transactions - and trades in particular - than we've seen in the recent past. Between the new tools available to clubs in the 2013 NHL/NHLPA CBA, the weak crop of free agents, and a draft class that looks to be historically strong, I really think we might see some mega deals this summer. I guess we'll see!


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Comments (9)add comment

kevinsrangers said:

kevinsrangers
about time... ive been saying this forever. boston is a skilled team. people try to profile them as a bunch of bullies. they can play like the rangers(obviously better..doooh) by blocking shots dumping,crashing and just waiting for an opportunity to score a goal. plus they can play like pits/chi. and score with great skill and passing pays. they have it all. im not a boston fan, but good for them. they got the cup imo.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

Corstyles said:

Corstyles
Krueger But now the 'r' fell off, so all it says is "K - ueger".

K - Ueger! K - Ueger! Like an old timey car horn.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... actually it technially is Krueger since the Swedish spelling is Krüger. smilies/wink.gif
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

BDog said:

BDog
... I must admit it worries me to see Bergeron drop the gloves at all with his concussion history. Thankfully no hard blows were landed.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

BDog said:

BDog
... I just laugh at that. Was there even a head shot landed? If it was a wrestling match we were watching than you're right - point Malkin for the take down but other than that I would hardly call it a pummelling.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... @BDog nearly 70% of hockeyfights.com voters agree with me http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/117572
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

BDog said:

BDog
Malkin vs Bergeron You think Malkin "pummelled" Bergeron when no punches were landed? Alrighty then.smilies/cry.gif
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... @Brady19 nitpick away. Remember: bloggers self-edit and in the case of this Ramblings post, finish writing stuff at crazy hours (2:30 AM). Corrections are appreciated.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

Brady19 said:

Brady19
... I hate nitpicking, as it was a solid ramblings but... It's Marcus Kruger, not Krueger.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0
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