March 20, 2014

WRA 3/20 and a guide to relevant teams

These stats are interesting. First, here are the current WRA numbers. (And a link to the formula in case anyone needs a refresher.)

1. Boston (3.86)
2. St. Louis (4.00)
3. Pittsburgh (5.29)
4. San Jose (7.57)
5. Chicago (8.86)
6. Anaheim (10.29)
7. Colorado (10.86)
7. NY Rangers (10.86)
9. Montreal (11.14)
10. Tampa Bay (13.43)
10. New Jersey (13.43)
10. Philadelphia (13.43)
13. Los Angeles (13.57)
14. Minnesota (14.14)
15. Columbus (14.29)
16. Washington (15.14)
17. Detroit (15.71)
18. Phoenix (16.43)
19. Toronto (17.29)
20. Dallas (17.43)
21. Winnipeg (18.29)
22. Vancouver (19.71)
23. Ottawa (20.00)
24. Carolina (20.14)
25. Edmonton (22.71)
26. Buffalo (23.00)
27. Nashville (23.43)
28. Calgary (23.83)
29. NY Islanders (24.57)
30. Florida (27.14)

Taken as they are, these numbers are not a great guide. For example, Colorado and the Rangers are not equal teams, but they show up tied. To help with this, I've separated the teams into four categories: the Elite, the Very Good, the Rest and the teams not even worth mentioning. Here's what you need to know about them as playoff teams.

The Elite (should win)
The Bruins and St. Louis are both in the top 10 in all five categories I use. It is rare to have two teams that are that strong in everything--last year there were none. It's also rare for those teams to win a Cup (just ask San Jose in 2010, Vancouver in 2011, Nashville in 2012, and Vancouver again in 2012).

Pittsburgh narrowly missed being another super-balanced team, but their SV% is 11th in the league. Despite being close to the top 10, goaltending is actually a pretty big weakness for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury has been worse in the playoffs than the regular season every single year of his career, including juniors and AHL, except for one, 2008. Every year besides 2008--and remember this is his entire life we're talking about, not just with the Penguins--he has collapsed once the regular season ends. Pittsburgh should plan accordingly.

San Jose was also close--everything but their PP (22nd) was top-10. Unlike the Penguins, this isn't a huge weakness. Many, many teams have had strong playoff runs without a strong power play. In fact, last year's Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks were also in the top 10 in every category but PP. Their PP rank? Also 22nd. The Sharks shouldn't worry too much.

The Very Good (could win)
Some combinations of weaknesses send up a red flag, fairly or not. One of them for me is a weak PK and a weak goaltender. If you can't shut down an opponent's best, your goalie better be able to bail you out (2011 Boston Bruins: 16th-ranked PK, 1st-ranked goalie). Or, if your goaltender is weak, you better know how to keep the puck far, far away from him (2010 Chicago Blackhawks: 23rd in SV%, 4th in PK). The 2014 Chicago Blackhawks are sending up that red flag, hanging in the bottom half of the league in both PK and SV%. Crawford has always been hot and cold, and the Blackhawks have always been able to bail him out when he's cold. But this year it seems he's cold, and they might not have the defensive team in front of him to hide it. This is why they aren't in the elite category.

Anaheim, at one point the team to beat, has fallen a bit due to their weak special teams and a lackluster statistical year from Jonas Hiller in net. While their lack of coordination on the PP/PK may indicate a coaching weakness (but probably not), Hiller can stand on his head whenever he feels like it. He's second behind Tuukka in shutouts despite being 25th in SV%.

Colorado clearly lacks defense, but they can score and they have a fantastic goalie, which can be a killer playoff combination. A disciplined, veteran team could find a way to exploit their defense, and the West is full of those types of teams. However, Patrick Roy is much, much crazier than his coaching rivals. I doubt Bruce Boudreau could put himself deep enough into Patrick Roy's crazy shoes to figure out what he's thinking. I know I can't. The Avs aren't a bad team to bet on.

The Rest (shouldn't win, but might)
Do you know who the coach of Tampa Bay is? No, it's not Guy Boucher. If it were still Guy Boucher, they would be in the above category. It's Jon Cooper. Jon Cooper and his team are going to do well in the playoffs. They can score goals and Ben Bishop has proven he is a top goaltender in the NHL. But their special teams leave something to be desired, and I blame Jon Cooper. Unlike Guy Boucher, who is 100% Bond villain, Jon Cooper looks like the dad from a Disney Channel show. After playing hockey at Notre Dame, but not the Notre Dame you're thinking of, Jon married a woman named Jessie and promptly named their kids Julia, Josephine, and Jonathan. Guy Boucher, on the other hand, won't even tell his kids where he got his awesome scar because it was "not hockey-related" and he wants it to be "a little enigma". Yeah, Jon Cooper sucks.

In my mind, Montreal and the Rangers are ranked too low in GF to be a threat to win the Cup. Statistically, they are very similar teams. Montreal is 20th in GF and the Rangers are 18th. Both have mediocre power plays, excellent defense and a star goaltender. They won't be easy to play in the playoffs, especially Montreal, who acquired Tomas Vanek to help their offense. But if their numbers are any indication of their offensive capabilities, they're both beatable, and the best teams should do just that.

You know who's fun? Philly. They're back to being that wacky team that scores a ton of goals and then looks back, dejected, as their goaltender lets in even more. Their PP is pretty good and, in spite of a bad goaltender and defense and the fact that a PK is nothing but those things, their PK is even better. Nobody is going to bet on the Flyers to win, but by god, they're going to do something. If the Bruins get knocked out, I'm rooting for a Flyers/Colorado final, because there is no possible way that doesn't end in Patrick Roy fighting Ray Emery on the Philadelphia bench, and I need that in my life.

Los Angeles and Minnesota are the same as always--boring, defensive teams that can't score, ever. Dallas can sort of score, and Phoenix has no strengths whatsoever. The West will be won by the top. (Important to note: I also thought this the last time LA won the Cup.)

The only other teams worth mentioning are Columbus and Toronto. Columbus is better than their numbers, as they were missing Sergei Bobrovsky for 12 games but now have him back. Not only that, but he's getting better. His SV% was .910 when he returned from injury; now it's .919. They're not great by any means, but they can score and they have the goalie, and that counts for a lot.

If it weren't for Jonathan Bernier, Toronto would not be in a playoff spot. Bernier alone won't get them far in the playoffs, though. I would love Toronto as a first-round matchup.

I don't expect things to change much between now and the end of the season, so for all intents and purposes this is what the playoffs are going to look like. Enjoy.

April 13, 2012

Western Conference Playoff Picks 2012

As is customary, I'm posting half of my picks after the playoffs already started. I swear, though, I picked these before they played.
The best teams in the West are Vancouver, Detroit, and Nashville, but because of matchups only one of them will likely make it to the Conference Finals. As a result, I predict a very anticlimactic Western Conference Final featuring Vancouver and Phoenix. Go Yotes?

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Everyone knows the Kings' story this year: they can't score on you, and you can't score on them. Defensively, Vancouver has similar numbers, though LA does have a slight edge. Offensively, Vancouver should blow them out of the water. A low-scoring series benefits the Kings, but Vancouver can play that game, too, if they need to. Vancouver lets up more shots than LA, so they need the good Luongo to show up. If he does, the Kings can't win.
Vancouver in 6

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
St. Louis is good, but painfully bottom-heavy. San Jose is more balanced in that they're mediocre at everything except the penalty kill, which they are awful at. The Sharks don't have the goaltending to win a defensive battle, but don't quite have the offense to make this series anything else. They lack scoring past their first line, which is why they score over 25% of their goals on the powerplay. This series will be boring and I'm planning on watching exactly none of it.
St. Louis in 7

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
I've seen a lot of people picking Chicago in this series, which baffles me. Statistically speaking, they're the worst team in the playoffs. They've got the 5th best offense in the NHL, but are near the bottom of the league in pretty much everything else. Phoenix isn't a great team by any means, but they have a solid goaltender and their scoring at even strength is nearly as good as Chicago's. Now that Ulf Samuelsson is safely back in Sweden, I don't even feel bad about picking the Coyotes to win.
Phoenix in 5

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
Picking this series has given me fits. The more numbers I look at, the more confused I am. Nashville has better special teams, but Detroit gets a lot more powerplay time than they give up. Detroit is better at even strength, but they lack quality goaltending. That's all right, though, because their shots for/against ratio is fantastic, while Nashville's is the worst in the playoffs. Somehow, though, Nashville has the most balanced scoring out of playoff teams (only 26% of their goals come from their top line). Detroit is second. I give Detroit the edge in this series, but I'm fully prepared to be wrong.
Detroit in 7

April 11, 2012

Eastern Conference Playoff Picks 2012

The Eastern Conference Finals should feature the Rangers vs. the Bruins or Penguins, with the Bruins/Penguins winning and moving onto the Stanley Cup Finals. This is barring major upsets, which is a big "if". There are upsets every year.
There's no telling for sure which team will make an improbable run, but upsetting teams in recent years have had a certain look to them. They almost all get goaltending above and beyond what they got in the regular season- key to stopping powerhouse teams that outclass you up front. They also have good PP and PK, despite mediocre or lopsided offensive and defensive numbers. This is a sign of a coach who knows how to coach situationally given what he has, which can have a greater impact in the playoffs. Think of the 1980 Olympics, when the US beat a better USSR team because they were coached for that exact matchup. Without Kurt Russell, they didn't have a chance.
God bless America.

Based on that profile, the team that looks most like an upsetting team this year is the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is hardly helpful. So much for predicting the improbable.

(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators
The Senators are a great scoring team and are tougher than I always assume they are, but they don't have much of a chance in this series. The Rangers' offense can be shut down, but not by a sieve-like defense and Craig Anderson, who is not what I could call a "starting" goaltender. Ottawa will score enough to make things interesting, but unless Anderson pulls a .940 out of his a**, they're not good enough to win this one.
Rangers in 6

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
In my mind, the Caps are the worst team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They're 13th in scoring and bottom half of the league in everything else. They don't have a statistical strength, and their supposed strength (Ovechkin) has always been easily handled by the Bruins' de. Also (and this may be a bit of an inside joke for Bruins fans): Dennis Wideman.
Bruins in 5

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Florida's stagnant offense could really use a matchup like this against a weak goaltender. Unfortunately for them, the Devils' defense has done a remarkable job of shielding their goalies all year, letting up the 2nd fewest shots per game and owning the league's best penalty kill. Jose Theodore thrives in the first round, and the Devils may have trouble scoring on him, but the Panthers de is terrible and I believe they will score in the end. Both of these teams are incredibly beatable, but New Jersey seems to be better coached.
New Jersey in 7

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
These teams are very similar. Both are offensive powerhouses with weak goalies, a surprisingly successful formula in the postseason. The only noticeable difference is their penalty kills- Pittsburgh is 3rd and Philly is 17th. This speaks to the different quality of defensemen they have, which will be very important considering the quality of goalies involved. Philly leads the league in PP time, which means they score about 1/4 of their goals with the man advantage, as opposed to Pittsburgh's 1/5 (and Boston's Conference-low 1/6). With fewer powerplays awarded in the postseason, Philly could see their scoring drop. This series could really play out any way, with either team coming out on top, but Pittsburgh has that look about them this year.
Pittsburgh in 7

April 4, 2012

Is Scoring or Goaltending More Important to Winning a Cup?

Growing up, certain facts about hockey were drilled into my head as common knowledge. Bobby Orr was the greatest hockey player ever. Ulf Samuelsson is the physical incarnation of evil. The goaltender is a team's most important player in the playoffs.

I realize now that the first two "common knowledge" facts are only common knowledge in the city of Boston. For years, though, I still believed goaltending was the deciding factor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I'm starting to suspect that the last fact has more to do with Ken Dryden than statistics.

My parents saw Dryden steal a 1971 series for the Canadiens against a Bruins team that was arguably better than the ones that won the cup in 1970 and 1972. This left an impression in their minds: a hot goaltender can ruin everything. It's true that in the most surprising recent upsets (Montreal beating Washington and Pittsburgh in 2010, Tampa beating Washington and Pittsburgh in 2011), unexpectedly good goaltending was the difference. But overall, goaltending appears to be more of a wildcard factor- capable of stealing series, but not a Stanley Cup.

Since the lockout, there is no discernible pattern in the goaltender quality of Stanley Cup winners. Their regular season SV% ranges from 1st (the 2011 Bruins) to 23rd (2010 Blackhawks). Only Boston and Anaheim had goaltenders in the top 10 in SV%.

Other factors are also all over the board. Goals against displays a weak connection to winning, at best. Special teams have no bearing, which makes sense given that fewer penalties are typically called in the playoffs. Powerplay quality is especially irrelevant.

It appears that the one weakness a team cannot afford to have in the playoffs is lack of scoring. Every winner since the lockout has been top 10 in regular season scoring. In fact, out of the 12 teams to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals since the lockout, 11 were among the top 10 in scoring. Only the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, at 15th, were below this marker.

The Oilers are an interesting case. One could argue that, had Roloson not gotten hurt in the Finals that year, they would be the exception to this rule. However, he did, and they lost, so the rule stands: your team must be top 10 in scoring to win a Stanley Cup, no matter how well your goaltender plays.

Even last year's Bruins prove this rule. Tim Thomas played phenomenally in the Finals, but he couldn't have won that series alone. He had a 1.67 GAA in his three losses- hardly something to complain about. It wasn't until the team started scoring that the Bruins won games.

This all means that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with their incredible offense and incredibly mediocre goaltending, have a better chance at the Cup than the New York Rangers or St. Louis, who are both out of the top 10 in scoring. In all likelihoods, neither the Rangers nor St. Louis will even make the Finals.

Dryden won the Cup for Montreal in 1971. It's possible that Lundqvist or Elliot are good enough to break this rule. But things have changed since the 70's. If I were a betting gal, I would keep my money on Boston, Detroit, or Pennsylvania.

February 6, 2012

WRA 2/6/2012

Weighted Rank Average formula here.

1. Boston (4.29)
2. Vancouver (4.71)
3. NY Rangers (8.86)
4. Pittsburgh (9.14)
5. Nashville (9.29)
6. Detroit (10.14)
7. San Jose (10.71)
8. Los Angeles (13.57)
9. St. Louis (14.00)
10. Edmonton (14.14)
11. Philadelphia (14.43)
12. Montreal (14.86)
13. Toronto (15.00)
14. Phoenix (15.43)
15. Calgary (15.86)
15. Florida (15.86)
15. Washington (15.86)
18. New Jersey (16.00)
19. Dallas (16.71)
19. Minnesota (16.71)
21. Chicago (17.57)
22. Winnipeg (17.86)
23. NY Islanders (18.29)
24. Colorado (18.43)
25. Anaheim (19.14)
25. Ottawa (19.14)
27. Buffalo (21.71)
28. Tampa Bay (22.29)
29. Carolina (23.00)
30. Columbus (28.29)

  • The Bruins are still the best team in the league, though Vancouver is close behind. They're the elite teams in the league right now, and will likely finish the year first and second. I've never seen the top teams so close before.
  • The next level of teams includes the Rangers, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Detroit, and San Jose.
  • Florida was in this group, but in the past two months have fallen off the chart in nearly every category. Lack of competition in their division means they'll make the playoffs, but they won't get far.
  • Nashville, on the other hand, has steadily improved in both offense and defense to become one of the better teams in the league. They're a very hardworking team and relatively balanced, so I don't believe their success is a fluke or temporary. They could benefit from adding an elite forward, however.
  • The Rangers GF and PP dropped quite a bit in the past two months. Lundqvist can certainly carry this team a few rounds into the playoffs, but they could also benefit from adding a scorer, especially since Gaborik is due for an injury.
  • Detroit's falling score is almost entirely due to suddenly shoddy special teams. Either these will improve, or the rest of the team will follow suit and drop off soon.
  • Philadelphia's goaltending continues to worsen, despite their steady offensive output. If they don't address this serious problem, they'll get killed in the playoffs. Again.
  • Pittsburgh also has goaltending issues. They're 22nd in SV%, a drop from 15th earlier in the year. Somehow, though, their GA has actually improved. The rest of the team is rallying to make up for their subpar goaltender, but without a backstop this pace is unsustainable.
  • Besides the Bruins, there isn't a real threat in the Northeast Division. Montreal has great defensemen, but little else. Toronto and Ottawa have scoring, but little else. Buffalo has little. There will probably be four Atlantic teams in the playoffs this year for that reason.
  • Los Angeles and Minnesota have to find a way to score to be successful. Their goaltending has put both teams in a playoff spot for the time being, but they can't maintain that position while 30th and 29th in scoring, respectively.
  • The Oilers flirted with being one of the better teams in the league, but are now in the middle of the pack. They should be doing slightly better in the standings than they are, or maybe just slightly worse in these stats. It depends if they can improve defensively.
  • Buffalo's decline has been dramatic and pretty much linear. They've gone from being one of the better teams in the league in December to being in the lowest class of teams now. I actually expect this to improve, though I won't be shocked if it doesn't.
  • That lowest class also includes Tampa Bay, Carolina, and the All-Star of Suck, Columbus. There is no hope in Columbus. That's what you get for being a douche, Jeff Carter.
There are few balanced teams in the league right now, even among successful ones. I don't expect Boston or Vancouver to make any major deals, but everyone else has weaknesses that need addressing. Teams that are top-heavy (like Toronto and Washington), bottom-heavy (like Los Angeles and St. Louis), or lack playoff-caliber goaltending (like Chicago and Philadelphia) should make moves before the trade deadline. Other teams, like Pittsburgh, Detroit, and San Jose, have the necessary components, but need to make them work better to win playoff series. These teams may also choose to go the way of trades. The next few weeks will definitely be interesting, and will definitely affect these stats. I'm curious to see how and by whom.

December 20, 2011

WRA 12/20/2011

Weighted Rank Average formula here.

1. Boston (3.00)
2. Vancouver (4.86)
3. Detroit (7.14)
4. NY Rangers (7.86)
5. Pittsburgh (9.00)
6. Florida (10.14)
7. Nashville (11.43)
8. Philadelphia (12.00)
9. Minnesota (12.14)
10. Edmonton (12.29)
11. San Jose (13.29)
12. Chicago (14.14)
13. St. Louis (14.43)
14. Buffalo (14.71)
15. Los Angeles (15.43)
16. Montreal (15.71)
17. Dallas (16.00)
18. Winnipeg (16.71)
19. Washington (17.00)
19. New Jersey (17.00)
21. Phoenix (17.14)
22. Toronto (17.57)
23. Calgary (18.00)
24. Colorado (20.14)
25. Ottawa (20.57)
26. Anaheim (22.00)
27. Tampa Bay (22.57)
28. NY Islanders (24.71)
29. Carolina (26.00)
30. Columbus (27.71)

  • Having seemingly found a solution to their goaltending dilemma, Vancouver's score has shot up by more than 3 (last month it was 8.00). Unfortunately for them, the Bruins also improved in 4 of 5 categories. Their 11th ranked PP is the only category they aren't in the top 3. Boston is still the best team in the league right now.
  • Detroit continues to make me nervous. Their offense has really picked it up in the past month, and Howard continues to have a good year. Their only real weakness is the PK, which doesn't help the Bruins much as we rely on our 5-on-5 play to win games.
  • Based on this, I see a Boston-Detroit Stanley Cup Final. Vancouver may be ahead now, but they still don't seem sure about who their starter is in net. Without consistency from one of their goaltenders, it will be difficult to make a long postseason run.
  • Columbus is bottom-5 in every category. Ugly stuff going on in Ohio this year.
  • Minnesota and Chicago will never make it to the Finals if they don't address their offense and defense, respectively.
  • Despite a seeming rollercoaster ride of emotions, Pittsburgh's numbers have stayed steady. This isn't good news for them. They desperately need their goaltending to improve. Philadelphia is in the same boat.

November 30, 2011

WRA 11/30/2011

I usually wait until January to start doing these stats, but I couldn't help myself. Stats are way more fun when your team puts up good numbers, and the Bruins have been.
Weighted Rank Average formula here.

1. Boston (4.43)
2. Vancouver (8.00)
3. NY Rangers (8.29)
4. Pittsburgh (8.57)
5. Detroit (10.00)
6. Florida (10.43)
7. Phoenix (11.14)
8. San Jose (11.57)
9. Edmonton (11.71)
10. Buffalo (12.29)
11. Philadelphia (12.57)
12. Los Angeles (12.71)
13. Montreal (14.43)
13. St. Louis (14.43)
13. Toronto (14.43)
16. Minnesota (14.57)
17. Nashville (15.14)
18. Chicago (17.00)
19. New Jersey (17.14)
20. Dallas (17.57)
21. Tampa Bay (18.14)
22. Washington (18.71)
23. Colorado (19.14)
23. Winnipeg (19.14)
25. Ottawa (19.29)
26. Anaheim (21.86)
27. Calgary (22.14)
28. NY Islanders (23.71)
29. Carolina (25.86)
30. Columbus (26.71)

Some notes on this:
  • Go Bruins. Our weakest number is PP%, at 13th. We are in the top 10 in every other category.
  • It always makes me nervous when Detroit is good. Their PP% is 22nd in the league, bringing their score down a lot. They're a balanced team and will likely go far this year.
  • I thought Pittsburgh would rocket up the charts once Crosby returned, but it isn't their offense that needs a boost. Their goaltending is 15th in the league. Unless that improves, I won't be very scared to face them in the playoffs.
  • The "race for the bottom" will probably be between those bottom five teams. If I were a betting man, I would put money on Columbus.
  • Congatulations to Florida for earning the title of The One Good Team In The Southeast this year.
  • Minnesota has returned to its "winning" formula of scoring no goals but allowing slightly fewer. Other one-sided teams in this category include Phoenix, New Jersey, Florida, the Rangers, and to an extent Montreal. Most of these teams can thank their goaltender; Montreal can probably thank their defense.
  • On the other side of things are the high-scoring but defensively challenged teams: Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Ottawa, Toronto, and to an extent Vancouver (this will change with their shiny new goalie, Cory Schneider, in net). Most of these teams can also thank their goaltenders for shabby defensive numbers. However, the numbers suggest that Toronto's problem is really their defense, and not Gustavsson.
  • I have a theory that you can tell whether a team's defense or goaltender is responsible for their GAA based on their PK%. A goaltender can do less for a team on the penalty kill, so if a team's PK is worse than their goals against, it probably means the goaltender is carrying the team at even strength. For example, Minnesota is 4th in GA and 13th in PK. This would suggest that their goaltender is the main reason their GA is so good. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is 11th in GA and 3rd in PK. This would suggest their defense is playing a bigger role than their goalie. This doesn't work out for every team, but I find it does for most, especially if you also take SV% into account.
Check back in a couple of weeks for updated numbers. I expect the Islanders and Pittsburgh to improve, and Philadelphia and Los Angeles to drop off a bit.

May 31, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals

Pictured: the last time the Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals

There is no more feeling nervous and pre-upset. It's no longer bad luck to be hopeful. This is the Stanley Cup Finals. We're too close to winning it all to be afraid of losing. This is one of the best experiences of my life and it's nothing but fun.

Most people don't think the Bruins are all that close to the Stanley Cup. Standing in their way is the Vancouver Canucks, the best team in the league this year and numerically the best team I've ever seen. Everybody thinks they're going to win, including the Canucks themelves. The feeling in Vancouver seems to be one of jubilance and confidence.

This is an advantage for the Bruins. The feeling in Boston before this series was one of pure terror. Right now? Feistiness. We know we're the underdogs. Losing to the Canucks won't be letting us down once again-- it's expected. Instead of being terrified of the worst, we've finally accepted it. Oddly enough, this means we have more faith in the Bruins. It's not about being perfect, it's about fighting harder. They can do that. Boston is made to fight (the first one).

However, it's not the underdog story everyone is making it out to be. The Bruins have actually been better in the playoffs so far. We've scored more goals, let in fewer, and Timmy has been better than Roberto "Italian Stallion" Luongo. As usual, special teams have been our weakness. The Canucks have been slightly better at killing penalties and much, much better at scoring powerplay goals.

I actually believe this can be another advantage for the Bruins. As long as we don't let Brad Marchand off his leash, there will be fewer penalties called in the Finals. While we've been slightly better than the Canucks overall, we've been vastly better at even strength in the playoffs. Powerplay goals accounted for 1/3 of their total scoring and less than 1/10 of ours. To put that another way, at even strength, the Canucks scored 1.83 goals/game, and we scored 2.94.

Vancouver may have been the top offensive team in the regular season, but they're 8th in the playoffs and have only been +3 through 18 games (not counting empty net goals). The Bruins have been +11. To put that in perspective, if these teams had been +1 in every win and -1 in every loss, they would be +6. The Canucks have actually been subpar for making it this far in the postseason.

This is the Stanley Cup Finals-- nothing is certain. The more certain you are, the less you know. Canucks fans seem very certain. I hope they don't know what the Bruins capable of.

May 27, 2011

It All Comes Down to This

Tonight the Bruins will play their 100th game this season. One game separates them from summer vacation and the opportunity to play for the most prized trophy in all of sports. The Stanley Cup. Sixty minutes of what is sure to be a grueling, physical battle. They will leave it all on the line tonight. When looking back at this series between the Bruins and Lightning, its been all about who can out-coach who, questionable calls by the officials and most of the games were won by special teams; or lack thereof. But tonight, the winner of this game will be the team who has the most heart.

These players have grown up their entire lives dreaming of this opportunity. This is why they play. The Bruins have proven to the league, the fans and most importantly themselves, that they are one of the top three teams in NHL. They need to stop overthinking their mistakes, stop second guessing themselves and just go out there and win 60 minutes of hockey. They're in this position for a reason. Sure they have league recognized talent; Vezina finalist Timmy in net, and Norris finalist Chara on defense. But it goes even further than techincal skill. They have the grit and tenacity. Lets be honest, they're a feisty bunch of assholes. The pieces are all in place and they're in control of their destiny. They can do it. I truly believe they can. Will they? We'll see.

All I know, is that words will not be able to describe the feeling. if the Bruins win tonight's game. If they lose, well...I know the drill. I'll retreat back home and ignore all aspects of hockey until maybe the draft or even training camp. I won't watch the Finals. But..if they win? Well, thats uncharted territory for me. I do know there will be alot of tears and a lot of joy. It's almost comical to me how if they win I'll cry my eyes out, and if they lose I'll be despondent, yes, but I won't let my emotions get the best of me.

I hope I'm crying tonight.

May 21, 2011

The Five Stages of Being a Bruins Fan

Denial: My internal monologue during the third period went something like this: "This isn't happening. They can still win the game. Blowing a 3-0 lead is nothing new, but this is a different team. They'll come back."

Anger: Even other Bruins fans were trying to calm me down after the game and I may have broken a finger punching a picture I drew of Tomas Kaberle's face.

Bargaining: I already offered my soul for a Stanley Cup during game 4 in Montreal, but I reminded whoever it is that's taking me up on that offer that winning this game would help.


Acceptance: I will not reach this stage until I drink enough $30 hotel white zinfandel to lose consciousness. Perhaps the saddest prospect of all.

Since I got back to our hotel room in Tampa, I've been alternating between anger and depression. I suspect this will continue until game 5.

As depressed/angry/drunk as I am, I don't believe we'll lose this series just because of this game. I hope the Bruins feel the same way.