The regular season has come and gone, as has the first round of the playoffs. Since dead week/finals week/Breaking Bad prevented me from doing an end of the year wrap-up or a playoff preview, here’s a first round wrap-up of sorts and a second round preview for you to digest. Speaking of digestion, isn’t it hilarious that some people actually thought that Ken Hitchcock and the Blues (JAY GALLON) would win the West? I think so.
What happened; In a battle of two future Conference III teams, the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild 4-1. The Wild threw everything they had at the Blackhawks and only came away with one more playoff win than the Canucks. Josh Harding (more like Hard-work-ing, amirite?) started all 5 games in place of Niklas Bäckström, who hurt himself during warmups before game one. He played exceptionally well in the first three games of the series – stopping 103 of 111 shots – before sustaining an injury in game four and being replaced by all-world goaltender Darcy Kuemper in games four and five. Kuemper let in 4 goals on the 33 total shots he faced including the first shot he faced during game four. In other words, he was about as bad as you’d expect a backup goalie’s backup goalie to be.
The Blackhawks dominated the possession game by outshooting the Wild 33.5 shots/60 minutes to 24.3 shots/60 minutes. Chicago’s depth was simply too much for the young Minnesota defensemen to handle. Norris Trophy finalist Ryan Suter’s Corsi numbers could be summed up using phrases like “really bad”, “atrocious”, “laughable”, “worse than Doug Murray’s” and “-22.82”. With a PDO of 935, you would expect that number to eventually improve, but we can still laugh for the time being. There will come a day when young’uns like Jonas Brodin (-6.10 Corsi) and Marco “local grocery store/horrible STI” Scandella (-19.73 Corsi) have developed into legitimate NHL defensemen. But last week(?) is not that day. They were repeatedly worked over by the Hawks forwards and generally looked overmatched.
When your team scores 7 goals in 5 games, you’re probably not going to go very far in the playoffs. Matt Cullen led all Minnesota players with a meager 3 points. That should tell you everything you need to know about the Wild’s scoring problem. Zach Parise, brought in to help a team dependent on Dany Heatley (lol) and Mikko Koivu to score goals, had all of 1 point in those 5 games, which definitely seems like it would be worth $98 million. Look at it this way; Zach Parise is beautiful. Does that make up for his disappearing act when his team needed him most? No. Is it nice? Very yes. Speaking of absolutely invisible, Mikko Koivu, often referred to as one of the more underrated players in the NHL, had zero points. But he also had 8 PIM, so I guess he wasn’t completely invisible. Either Koivu was playing hurt, which I doubt he’d ever admit, or he’s “underrated” for a reason.
The Blackhawks may have dominated against a much weaker Wild team, but there was still plenty of room for improvement. They played strong defense throughout the series, including the relatively new pairing of Keith and Hjalmarsson. Their Corsi numbers were off the charts but the eye test also concurred that they played well. PDO suggests they will regress to some degree, but the fact remains the same.
Nick Leddy paired with Michal Rozsival is a good thing and I’m glad Quenneville hasn’t been stupid enough to pair him with Sheldon Brookbank instead. Rozsival has been a nice compliment to Leddy’s puck-moving tendencies and has provided a calming influence for the occasional yips (YAPP IT) Leddy still shows. Brent Seabrook’s Corsi is decent (12.26) but he benefitted from playing against weaker competition in the Wild and starting 2/3 of his shifts in the offensive zone. He’s looked slow all year and his play will need to improve in order to keep up with some of Detroit’s faster forwards. I blame all of those nachos.
The third line did the real damage in this series. Shaw, Bickell and Frolik combined for 11 points in those five games. Even when they weren’t scoring points they were major factors in each game. Frolik contributed invaluable minutes on the PK, which held the Wild without a power-play goal throughout the series. Bickell brought the physical element he tends to bring in big games, which gives him the space and the 30 seconds it takes for him to unload that wicked wrister of his. He’s going to get a LOT of money when another team decides to pay more than $541,667 this summer.
Full team #fancystats can be found here.
What’s happening; The Hawks will host Detroit on Wednesday at 7:00 PM CST (f*** Eastern time). I’ll be SRO so you should stop and say something. It doesn’t have to be “hi”; it could be “high”, for example. Moving on… after the jump Continue reading