August 14 2012 12:42PM
The 2012 Chicago Blackhawks finished the regular season 10th in points and 5th in Fenwick Close, but their season ended with a thud in the first round against the Phoenix Coyotes as Mike Smith shut the door repeatedly on the Hawks scorers. The abrupt ending to the season overshadows the fact that the Hawks were a really good team in 2012 despite several flaws.
The flaws the Blackhawks were working with seem like they should have made more of an impact than they did. Both of Chicago's special teams units were poor. The goaltending was poor. The defense was sketchy after the top pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and, after they dumped out of the failed Patrick Kane to center experiment in December, they didn't have an established second line center. Despite these holes the biggest acquisition of the Hawks' offseason thus far has been Sheldon Brookbank.
As serious as those problems are the Blackhawks were still one of the most dominant teams in the league. The lack of moves to this point in the offseason means they are going to need to improve internally to get back to the top of the league.
August 13 2012 12:30PM
If it wasn't for bad luck, Marleau would have no luck at all
Photo by Kittenwaffles via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s start with a counterfactual: had the San Jose Sharks won the 2010 or 2011 Stanley Cup, would they be considered the best post-lockout team? After all, San Jose has the second-best record since the lockout, averaging 106 points per season, four points behind the Detroit Red Wings, and they’ve won more playoff games and series than all but Detroit and the Pittsburgh Penguins.Had they won one of those cups – more recently than Detroit and Pittsburgh – would they not indeed be viewed as a dynasty as opposed to a team that has never been able to crack the NHL’s upper echelon?
The irony is that this counterfactual had something like a 25% chance of happening.In the 2009-10 and 2010-11 Western Conference Finals, the Vegas lines expected San Jose to win 46% of their games; they won 11%.On average, the Sharks should have won one of these series, and they would have then had a 50-50 shot at winning the Stanley Cup. (As bad as events have unfolded lately, Sharks fans should be happier than Flyers fans, who have lost their last six straight Stanley Cup Finals.)
August 12 2012 10:03PM
Can Don Maloney find another steal?
By Mathew Cerasoli, via Wikimedia Commons
The Phoenix Coyotes are one of the more interesting teams in the league when you think about it. They are an out of market team with a tight-budget, are always in relocation talks and are still searching for an owner but despite that, they have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and appeared in the Western Conference Finals last year. Phoenix is a team that has always managed to “beat the odds” for the last few seasons. They always seem to be in the playoff mix despite many predicting them to regress, and they always seem to do it while losing a major piece or two.
Ever since they made the playoffs, the Coyotes haven’t been a bad team at even strength, but they have been largely mediocre, ranking 15-19th in Fenwick close in the last three seasons. The main reason they have reached the playoffs is because they’ve received outstanding goaltending. Their lowest even strength save percentage the last three years has been .923 and it was at least .930 in the last two seasons. Most hockey minds thought they would take a large step back when they replaced Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith, but the exact opposite ended up happening and the Coyotes ended up getting a Vezina-quality season from Smith.
Elite goaltending can boost a mediocre team to greater heights and that has been the case with the Coyotes over the last few years. The question now is will Smith be able to replicate his incredible season and will it be enough to keep the Yotes in contention? Goaltending performance is something that is next to impossible to predict, so Smith could go either way. A bigger problem for the Coyotes is that they lost a couple important players up front and could be on the verge of losing another, so Phoenix may need more than great goaltending to get back to the post-season next year.
August 11 2012 08:33AM
If you followed my earlier article on the "Ken Hitchcock effect", you'd have maybe found what I did. A particularly elite coach like Hitchcock can possibly influence his goaltender's save percentage and make it a little better than the goalie normally expects. Now, the effect isn't great. I think a lot of people who took a look at St. Louis' goaltending this season can make the mistake of attributing all of the success of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak to Hitchcock.
August 10 2012 02:23PM
In this edition we covered all things tracking with an expert panel on the subject: Neil Greenberg from the Washington Post and ESPN Insider, Geoff Detweiller of Broad Street Hockey, Eric T. of BSH and NHLnumbers and our own tracking addict Corey S. We went over Eric's article on the link between scoring chances and shot differential and what it means for scoring-chance tracking, Geoff and Eric's very promising project tracking zone entries, tracking zone exits and what the future holds for tracking/advanced stats.