April 12 2016 02:00PM
Remember when Pittsburgh was looking like they might miss the playoffs? Those days are long gone, and the Penguins hit the ground running after a midseason coaching change as one of the league's hottest teams heading into their first-round matchup with the New York Rangers.
Phil Kessel never scored the 50+ goals some thought he might (he scored 26), but a second-half "rebound" from Sidney Crosby saw him sit third in league scoring and lead a strong playoff push. The team finished with 104 points, good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division. Besides Crosby and Kessel, Evgeni Malkin (when healthy) and Patric Hornqvist added 27 and 22 goals each. The Penguins' 241 goals ranked third in the league.
The Rangers, on the other hand, boasted five 20-goal scorers (Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, JT Miller, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan) in one of the more well-balanced attacks in the league, which ranked seventh in total goals. The team had its own surprises throughout the year, as likely the player with the most offensive talent on their team, Rick Nash, picked up just 36 points in 60 games, after potting 42 goals in 79 games the year before. The Rangers picked up 101 points.
Both teams were full of shocks this year, but once the season came to an end, neither team could be too disappointed with their placing in the standings. All in all, the teams come in fairly evenly matched up in their performances this year over 82 games, in what has all the makings of a classic first-round series.
As you'll recall, these teams faced each other in each of the past two playoffs, with the Rangers coming out on top both times in last year's first round (4-1) and in the conference semifinals in 2014 (4-3.)
March 08 2016 02:15PM
Matt Hunwick is kind of like the NHL-level equivalent of a rent-a-player. He plays a lot, but mostly because he's willing to and physically can, not because he's exceptionally talented. Today, it was announced Hunwick was shut down for the rest of the season with a sports hernia injury. Frankly, Toronto might be better off without him.
There's a lot of things to like about Hunwick- he's an assistant captain, praised as a good leader by his teammates, and brings a veteran presence to a young team. But Hunwick might be the worst regular player on the team, and with the Leafs currently being at the bottom of the NHL standings, he's probably in consideration for the bottom few percentage points of NHL talent in the league. And yet, he's not just a regular - he's picked up the second most ice time on the team at 5v5 this year, less than only Morgan Rielly, his most common defensive partner.
With Hunwick out of the lineup, the Leafs lose a TOI monster. But looking at how the team performs without Hunwick, that might not be the worst thing for a team on a five-game slide. Of course, wins at this point don't matter much as the Leafs are draft lottery-bound, but from a purely statistical standpoint, Hunwick's absence makes the Leafs a far better hockey team.
December 29 2015 08:40AM
Martin Marincin has never been described as a standout offensive dynamo — this much is clear.
This season, through 22 games, he's been held off the scoresheet every single time, registering 0 goals and 0 assists. The Leafs aren't exactly swimming in offensive talent, and Marincin put up just 11 points in 85 games over two years as an Edmonton Oiler, but 0 points for any player over 22 games is quite low. Marincin's one of just three players in the league this year to have at least 20 games with a goose egg in the point column.
And yet, somehow, he's been among the Leafs' best defensive players, and arguably one of the top defensive players in the league. He's doing things virtually no one else is doing. No, seriously. At just $700,000 on a one-year deal, Martin Marincin is an absolute statistical anomaly right now.
Let's dive a little deeper to understand Marincin's game, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
December 27 2014 08:38PM
Canada defeated Germany 4-0 on Saturday for their second victory in as many days. When scoring the first goal of the game, Canada is now 2-0 in the 2015 World Juniors. If they want to win gold in the tournament, they should look to do that every game.