Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

When the site staff originally discussed which game wraps we would be able to write in these final weeks of the season, I had signed up for yesterday and Rose had tonight. She asked me to swap because she had something to do this evening, and I obliged because I am the world’s best co-worker (please don’t ask my co-workers if this is true, just take my word for it). I want to trade back. Yes I know I can’t. Whatever. BULLETS:

– Maybe I am just not interested enough given the season is more-or-less over, or maybe I just keep getting the library quality games to wrap, but I was very bored by this game. The Hawks really didn’t even play all that poorly – they dominated the first period, in fact, and ended the night with a slight edge in shot attempts – but it was just a snoozer of a game. There were some exciting chances both ways early in the first, but I wasn’t that impressed with the play of either team, save for whenever Nathan MacKinnon was on the ice for the Avs.

– Until the third period, this was a scoreless game at evens that the Hawks were only losing because of their putrid penalty kill. I wrote about this last year when I was still at Second City Hockey, but the Hawks biggest problem on the PK remains that they are entirely too passive, and pretty much let the opponent dictate the play and do whatever they want. I think it’s fair to blame some of it on the fact that they don’t have the most reliable netminders, and in tonight’s case a rookie, but they get in such a tight box and don’t even flirt with pressuring puck carriers anywhere on the boundaries of the zone. The end result is Mikko Rantanen having plenty of time to tee one up for Tyson Barrie in the second, or MacKinnon having the time to do so for Rantanen in the third. It’s just embarrassing, really, and I don’t quite understand what thee Hawks’ plan is with that strategy on the PK, if there even is one.

– Blake Hillman made his NHL debut tonight. That is definitely something that he did tonight, I can assure you. That is all I have to say about Blaine Hillard on his NHL debut night. I guess him not being noticeably awful is a good sign for now. I hope Blaze Hilltop has a good NHL career and can fix the Blackhawks blue line. Who were we talking about again?

– I’ve made it known I am “team tank,” but at this point that’s about done cuz the Hawks can’t really get much lower down the standings without some miraculous efforts from those below them. I say that so you can know how truly difficult it is to watch them lose 5-0 on a Friday night and not root for it to just get continuously worse. This is the darkest timeline.

– HEY! We only have to do this three more times. And you and I only have to do it once more, and not for a whole week – I will see you next after the season finale. Try to enjoy your week, and have a Happy Easter if you’re celebrating!

 

Everything Else

If you are or were a fan of the Jets for a while, they have been one of the more frustrating teams to follow. If you haven’t been a Jets fan, then they’ve been a hilarious team to follow. Because the results you’re seeing now isn’t borne out of new talent. Sure, Patrik Laine is only in his second season. Kyle Connor is in his first full one. Ehlers has only been around for three, but most everyone else has been in Winnipeg for years. Clearly, they should have been better than they were, as they’ve been sporting one of the best forward corps at least for years now.

The goaltending, rightly, got a lot of the blame as Ondrej Pavelec, Michael “Something About You Girl” Hutchinson, and Connor Hellebuyck spent most of their time finding more and creative ways to Nickelodeon-slime the rest of their team the previous few years. Hellebuyck cementing the role as his own this year is the biggest factor as the Jets soared to near the top of the conference.

The other is that Paul Maurice is no longer acting like one of the dumber coaches in the league, nor taking his team with him.

The previous three seasons, the Jets finished no lower than 6th in penalty minutes per game. In terms of just minor penalties, the ones you tend to end up on a penalty kill for, the Jets finished 1st, 3rd, and 4th as far as most minors taken. This year, they’re 17th in penalty minutes per game, and 12th in total minors taken. And don’t think it wasn’t an approach. Maurice accentuated the Jets assholic tendencies, and didn’t really mind if they took swipes after whistles or went for hits out of line because of “intimidation” and “grit” and “beer fart.”

Taking a lot of penalties in the previous years was a monumentally dumb strategy for the Jets, because they were a basket case penalty killing unit. The previous three seasons they finished 13th, 25th, and 26th in penalty kill. So not having a good kill, and putting themselves on it a lot was always going to be a major obstacle for them to actually be any good. So they were bad, and didn’t win a playoff game.

The difference is clear. In special teams goals, the Jets are +13 this year. Last year they were -13, including giving up five 5-on-3 goals. A turnaround of 26 goals is a lot of points they’re banking simply by not being so dumb that they didn’t get last year because they were idiotic.

It also helps when your goalies are unconscious when shorthanded. While systematically the Jets were middling-to-clueless on the kill, they’re goalies simply were waving at more pucks than an octopus trying to catch balloons. Their team SV%’s on the PK were .874, .860, and .849. This year it’s .902, which is unholy, and best in the league. That doesn’t really have much to do with Maurice, but at least they’re not asking as much of their goalies. Given the attempts and chances they give up on the kill, which is higher than the previous three seasons in both, it’s not like Maurice has figured out a better way to kill penalties than “hope my goalie isn’t playing like he’s drunk.” And Hellebuyck hasn’t, so that’s worked. But hey, taking way less penalties is a step in the right direction.

Don’t think this won’t make a difference. Unless they really fuck up, the Jets are staring at what should be the de facto Western Conference Final in the 2nd round. And the Predators are one of the most penalized teams in the league, as Peter Laviolette hasn’t done much to corral the snarl and growl and dumbassery that the Preds developed last spring. A huge gap in special teams, given how good both the Jets’ PP and PK have been, could tilt that series.

And we’re certainly here for a series the Preds lose because they were dumber than the Jets.

 

Game #78 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Time to clean up the rest of this preview, with a brief glance at the special teams and then try and guess how it’s all going to go.

On the power play, the Wild have for years been terrible. That changed in the first round, and you can mostly pin that on the presence of Matt Dumba. The Wild went 4-for-12 in the series against St. Louis, which isn’t a lot of chances in a six-game series but certainly is enough power play goals. Dumba had one, and set up one or two more with the cannon he has from the point. It gives them a second point-man with a big shot, with the other being Jason Pominville, who they don’t always use on the point. With Neiderreiter, Vanek, Parise, and Koivu all bodies that can make plays around the net, and the problems the Hawks had with the Predators down low on the power play, this could become an issue.

Everything Else

It’s back. Our weekly feature… or one of them, at least. Let’s get to it.

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad – Well this was easy, wasn’t it? Four points in two games, and when he wasn’t piling up points on the third line he was dominating pretty much every shift. As we suspected, Saad is relishing being away from the other teams’ top pairings, not that he did all that badly when he had to deal with them last year. A physical force, and turning into a premier power forward right before our eyes. While Smith and Nordstrom have been tested on the top penalty killing pair with Kruger, will it be too much longer before Saad gets his chance? I doubt it.

Everything Else

In 2011, the Bruins won their Stanley Cup with a lockdown penalty kill, and a power play that bordered on comically bad. Stop me if this sounds uncomfortably familiar. Finding no reason to fix what isn’t (totally) broken, the Bruins are on much the same trajectory as they were two years ago, though the Blackhawks certainly should not take that as a cue to tempt fate by marching to the box as they have to this point in the post season. Furthermore, the Hawks finding a way to somehow take advantage of the Bruins’ penalty kill will go a long way toward mitigating the physical liberties Boston will no doubt plan on taking.