Archive for April, 2011

NHL Round Two playoff picks

Posted in Canucks-related, Flyers-related on April 29, 2011 by wechslerh66

Belatedly, my take on Round Two:


San Jose/Detroit: The Sharks beat the Wings in five games last playoffs but were actually outscored 17-15, winning four one-goal games and being blown out 7-1 in Game 4 (somewhat 2011 Canuck-esque, without the other two losses). In other words, pure puck luck. San Jose is better now, offensively and defensively (Nabokov to Niemi is a wash); Detroit probably slightly worse in terms of both health (Zetterberg’s knee, Franzen’s ankle) and Howard, among other X factors (Lidstrom turned 41 yesterday). Datsyuk may be the best player on either team. Despite that, as a Canucks fan, I would rather face Detroit, and will take San Jose in six here.

Vancouver/Nashville: Never in doubt. Nashville won’t be as tough an opponent as the Hawks were (nor as the Sharks or Wings would be, I think), and probably won’t score enough often enough to win this series, but with Rinne and Weber and Barry Trotz behind the bench, it will be close. Odd note: the Canucks are scoring 2.12 goals/game so far this postseason (and allowing 2.75); Nashville is outscoring them by 1.02. That won’t last. Bonus points to Shea Weber’s playoff beard, a.k.a. the guy from Iron and Wine, but Vancouver in seven.


Philadelphia/Boston: I probably would have stuck with Bobrovsky longer, at least as the backup for Boucher over Leighton, but whatever, it worked (or rather, worked out despite not working). I doubt the Flyers will be as lucky against Boston, who has two good goalies and decent depth up front and on D, and who went 3-1 vs. the Flyers during the regular season. Health (Carter, Pronger) is one obvious X factor and probably worth more than the difference between Boucher and Thomas, or even Bobrovsky and Thomas. Bruins in six.

Washington/Tampa Bay: The Caps went 4-1-1 vs. Tampa during the regular season, outscoring them 19-10 (the two non-wins were Roloson shutouts, 1-0 in OT and 3-0, meaning Tampa was outscored 19-6 in the other 4 games). Roloson was good in Round One (4-3, .949%, 1.77 with a shutout), Neuvirth was arguably better (4-1, .946%, 1.38 with a shutout). Even without Knuble and Wideman, I doubt this will take more than Caps in five.


Russian Roulette

Posted in Flyers-related on April 28, 2011 by wechslerh66

Somehow, the Flyers won a playoff series despite being outcoached, despite a mere 22 minutes of Chris Pronger, and despite a bad-even-for-them round of goalie roulette:

Boucher 4-1, .934%, 2.10, 285:30 TOI
Bobrovsky 0-1, .875%, 3.38, 71:03 TOI
Leighton 0-1, .862%, 3.43, 69:43 TOI

Or as it broke down:

BUFFALO 1 at FLYERS 0 Bobrovsky
BUFFALO 4 at FLYERS 5 Bobrovsky/Boucher
FLYERS 4 at BUFFALO 2 Boucher
FLYERS 0 at BUFFALO 1 Boucher
BUFFALO 4 at FLYERS 3, OT Boucher/Leighton
FLYERS 5 at BUFFALO 4, OT Leighton/Boucher
BUFFALO 2 at FLYERS 5 Boucher

Boucher only bombed in Game Five, but Bobrovsky and (more mercifully) Leighton were only offered the opportunity to bomb once as well.

How rare an occurrence is a playoff goalie troika where each goalie starts at least one game in a series?

Remarkably, the Flyers had never done it before. Unremarkably, the last team that did, the 2004 Vancouver Canucks, was forced to because of injuries, not incompetence (or at least, when Dan Cloutier was arguably incompetent but unarguably injured). Cloutier pre-injury, Hedberg pre-injury, and rookie Alex Auld were outdueled by the Flames’ Miikka Kiprusoff in Round One, but it took seven games:

VANCOUVER 2 at CALGARY 1 Cloutier/Hedberg

Other notorious three-ways: the 1990 Blackhawks, who lost 4-2 to the Oilers in the conference finals:

EDMONTON 4 at CHICAGO 2 Millen/Cloutier (that would be Jacques Cloutier, not Dan)
CHICAGO 3 at EDMONTON 4 Cloutier
EDMONTON 8 at CHICAGO 4 Millen/Cloutier

Or the 1989 New York Rangers, who were swept by the Penguins in Mario Lemieux’s playoff debut:

NYR 1 at PITTSBURGH 3 Froese (I had no idea Bob Froese was still a Ranger in 1989)
NYR 4 at PITTSBURGH 7 Froese/Vanbiesbrouck
PITTSBURGH 5 at NYR 3 Vanbiesbrouck
PITTSBURGH 4 at NYR 3 Richter (in his NHL debut, after a 23-26, 4.30 season with the Denver Rangers)

Or even more notoriously, the 1986 Winnipeg Jets, who went 26-47-7 and not only made the playoffs but FINISHED THIRD IN THE SMYTHE DIVISION (the Canucks were tied at 59 points but with fewer wins, at 23-44-13; the Kings missed the playoffs at 23-49-8 and were still 14 points ahead of the last overall Detroit Red Wings– oh, the memories).


The Jets were swept by the Flames but not before dressing– and playing– four goalies in three games (who seriously weren’t that bad; they would total 1,266 NHL games in their careers– with only Behrend at fewer than 50):

Berthiaume 0-1, .907%, 3.53, 68 TOI
Hayward 0-1, .806%, 5.29, 68 TOI
Bouchard 0-1, .773%, 7.50, 40 TOI *
Behrend 0-0, 1.000%, 0.00, 12 TOI

* When you need to doublecheck which is the save percentage and which is the goals against average: not good.

Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs are always notorious. The 28-37-15 1981 Leafs were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup winner:


Larocque 0-1, 6.40, 75 TOI
Crha 0-2, 10.15, 65 TOI (over 3 total games!)
Harrison 0-0, 1.50, 40 TOI

How bad were the Leafs? Defenseman Barry Melrose played all three playoff games and led the team in PM with 15.

Oddest of all, the 1938 Black Hawks actually won a Cup, beating, in order, Montreal, the New York Americans, and the Leafs with this troika:

Mike Karakas 6-2, 1.71, 525 TOI
Paul Goodman 0-1, 5.00, 60 TOI (not him)
Alfie Moore 1-0, 1.00, 60 TOI

What’s odd is, Karakas played every regular season game for the Hawks and went 14-25-9, 2.80 with a shutout– meaning Chicago went 14-25-9 and STILL won the Cup, with a winning percentage almost as bad as the 1986 Jets (.385 vs. .369).

So there’s that. And who would you rather root for, when it’s all over: the Bouchovskeighton three-headed goalie monster or one Roman Cechmanek?

Eurotrash, Part III: 2011

Posted in Flyers-related on April 12, 2011 by wechslerh66

Eurotrash, Part I: 2000-2004 is here.
Eurotrash, Part II: 2006-2010 is here.

Ten years ago Andrei Nazarov ranked 4th in the NHL with 229 PIM. Fellow Euro Krzysztof Oliwa was 17th with 165 PIM– a four season low (not to be confused with Reed Low) for the former Devil who once racked up 295 PIM in a 73 game season.

Nazarov and Oliwa are both retired in 2011, Oliwa now in Poland and Nazarov now the coach of the KHL’s Vityaz Chekhov (home of ex-Flyers Danny Markov and Josh Gratton, by the way). Ulf Samuelsson is now behind the Coyotes’ bench; Darius Kasparaitis is now coaching SKA St. Petersburg (with Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov, and Maxim Afinogenov, among others). Even pseudo-European Owen Nolan (born in Ireland, grew up in Ontario) is a ZSC Lion.

How bad is the current NHL as far as Euro-goons are concerned? очень плохо! No European player broke the 100 PIM mark this season. Below are the final 2010-2011 totals.

Euro rank / Overall rank / Player / Total PM / Born
1. #45 Jarkko Ruutu 97 Finland
2. #55 Zdeno Chara 88 Slovakia
3. #66 Ladislav Smid 85 Czech Republic
4. #74 Roman Hamrlik 81 Czech Republic
5. #75 David Koci 80 Czech Republic
6. #105 Alexander Semin 71 Russia
7. #106 Mattias Ohlund 70 Sweden
8. #107 Victor Hedman 70 Sweden
9. #109 Vladimir Sobotka 69 Czech Republic
10 (tie). #133 Tomas Holmstrom 62 Sweden
10 (tie). #134 Pavel Kubina 62 Czech Republic

New Duck Jarkko Ruutu wins his third Euro-PIM title, two fights ahead of Chara, who scores his 10th consecutive season among the top 10 but still hasn’t won a title, despite his best efforts.

The Demolition Man, Tomas Holmstrom, makes the top 10 for the first time ever– bad news for Euro-goons based on the low PIM total the Red Wings post-Probert and Kocur tend to incur. Smid (who actually led much of the season) and Sobotka are also Euro-rookies among the top 10.

Koci racked up 80 PIM in only 35 games, by far the lowest number out of any of the above Euros, meaning were the Avs any worse (meaning, were the Avs the Oilers), Koci could perhaps have topped 100 PIM.

Still, Koci at 100 PIM would be 40 PIM behind his career high, and 200 PIM behind Oliwa’s. An era is over. We are all Datsyuk now.

NHL Round One playoff picks

Posted in Canucks-related, Flyers-related on April 11, 2011 by wechslerh66

With an obligatory reference to Dave Hannah, below are my NHL playoff picks for Round One:


Washington/NY Rangers: A worse Rangers team almost upset a pretty decent Caps team two playoffs ago. Lundqvist is the better goalie (and one of the most underrated in the NHL, in my opinion). Without an Ovechkin or a Backstrom, the Rangers are deeper up front– either Wolski-Boyle-Prust or Drury-Christensen-Zuccarello is a nice 4th line. The Rangers actually had a better goal differential than the Caps (+35 vs. +27) in the regular season, too. Still, Callahan is injured, and more importantly, Ovechkin is Ovechkin, and he’s due. I may regret this, but Caps in six.

Philadelphia/Buffalo: The Sabres have Ryan Miller. The Flyers have Bobrovsky/Boucher. I think it will be Bobrovsky, and I think he’ll be pretty good, but Pronger is either out or less than 100%, and I like the Sabres’ depth to match the Flyers’ depth and someone (Kaleta? McCormick? Gerbe?) to agitate the hell out of the Flyers. Buffalo in six.

Boston/Montreal: Thomas is the better goalie. Boston is probably the better team. Montreal won four of six in the regular season, which doesn’t mean much to me as far as the playoffs, but I still like this matchup for the Habs. Montreal in seven.

Pittsburgh/Tampa Bay: Even without Crosby and Malkin, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Penguins in the finals. The Pens were +36 in the regular season; Tampa was +7. A hot Roloson (see Edmonton 2006) is the only thing that can win this series for Tampa Bay, but a D that features Marc-Andre Bergeron (see Edmonton 2006) won’t help. Pittsburgh in five.


Vancouver/Chicago: Many Vancouver fans wanted Dallas, but I don’t know that it really matters. Dallas had a negative goal differential and the goaltending and D were probably worse, and of course the Blackhawks still have Toews and Kane and Hossa, but I think the Canucks smoke them. The Canucks scored the most goals (262 vs. Detroit’s 261), allowed the fewest (only the Predators were within 10), had the top power play percentage (only the Sharks and Ducks were within 1.0%, though Chicago was 4th), and was tied with the Caps for the second best penalty kill percentage (only the Penguins were better). The loss of Malhotra hurts, but I still see Vancouver in five.

San Jose/Los Angeles: I wouldn’t have signed him to a four-year extension, or even a two-year extension, but I like Niemi, and I don’t really see any weaknesses on the Sharks up front, on D, or 5 on 4 (though as a wise man known as Tom Benjamin once noted, teams win because they have strengths, not because they don’t have weaknesses). On a similar note, I don’t think the Kings are doomed to lose because Kopitar and Williams are missing, but I just don’t see LA having the firepower to match up well here, with or without them. San Jose in six.

Detroit/Phoenix: I can see Detroit being upset by someone, and the goaltending here favors the Coyotes, but nothing else does, and Detroit is one team that can win with mediocre goaltending (a.k.a. the Osgood exception). Detroit in six.

Anaheim/Nashville: Anaheim was one matchup I didn’t want as a Canuck fan, even though the Ducks’ goaltending is a question mark (a healthy Hiller? a healthy Emery? Dan Ellis??) and the D drops off after potential Norris winner Visnovsky. The Predators will win a first-round series one of these seasons, and actually had a better goal differential than the Ducks (+25 vs. +4), but even with Rinne outplaying whomever, I think the Ducks will win in five.

I went with the “worse goalie” in four out of eight matchups (assuming Fleury is better than Roloson, and Niemi/Quick is a wash– if Quick is the “better goalie,” make it five of eight). So much for Dave Hannah.

Signs of the NHL Apocalypse, 2011

Posted in Canucks-related, Flyers-related on April 9, 2011 by wechslerh66

♦ As of mid-February, six Vancouver Canucks defensemen were injured and Sami Salo wasn’t one of them. (And that was before Hamhuis went down.)

♦ On a related note: Carlo Colaiacovo (65) would play more games than Chris Pronger (50).

David Koci as a defenseman. The Avs’ D in a 4-2 home loss to Dallas on 4/8: Koci-Macias, Holos-Wilson, Belle-O’Byrne. Dustin Byfuglien, you ARE worth that $26M extension.

♦ New Jersey under John MacLean: 9-22-2, .303
New Jersey under Jacques Lemaire: 28-16-3, .628

♦ Only 7 teams have a winning percentage above .628 this season. Only one team has a winning percentage below .400 this season (the Oilers at .377).

♦ Underrated: Jarome Iginla at 33: 42 G, 43 A, 13 PPG, 284 shots for the Flames (career: 480 G, 521 A, +62, 148 PPG). John LeClair at 33: 18 G, 10 A in 35 games. Cam Neely at 33: retired. Todd Bertuzzi the season he turned 33: 14 G, 26 A. If Iginla were in Toronto? Detroit? A Flyer? Damn.

♦ Somehow, Adrien Aucoin is fifth in career games among Vancouver Canuck draft picks, behind only Linden, Lever, Lowry (yes, Dave Lowry), and the immortal Harold Snepsts.

♦ The Islanders have four 20-goal scorers (Grabner 33, Moulson 31, Tavares 28, Comeau 24, with Parenteau at 19)– the most since 2006-2007, when they had six, led by Jason Blake’s 40 (Smyth 36, Satan 27, Sillinger 26, Viktor Kozlov 25, Trent Hunter 20). Alexei Yashin scored 18 that season. Kyle Okposo led the 2008-2009 Islanders with 18.

♦ So much for expansion, or, the Bobby Schmautz Awards:

– Marc Denis leads the Blue Jackets in career wins (84)…and losses (146). Ron Tugnutt (when was he in Columbus??) is the career GAA and SV% leader.

– David Legwand is the all-time leading scorer for the Predators.

– Patrik Stefan is #3 in career games played for the Thrashers.

– Stephane Veilleux, Wes Walz, and Filip Kuba are in the top 10 in career games for the Wild. (True story: when someone in my hockey pool drafted “F. Kuba” in 1998, I took it as an anti-Castro joke. Oddly and appropriately enough, the real F. Kuba was drafted by Miami.)

♦ On a related note, Atlanta’s career PM leader scored a hat trick on Martin Brodeur and former teammate Johan Hedberg.

♦ Pittsburgh with Crosby: 26-12-3, .671
Pittsburgh without Crosby: 22-13-5, .613

♦ Atlanta with Jim Slater: 20-15-6, .561
Atlanta without Jim Slater: 13-19-6, .421

♦ Buffalo with Derek Roy: 14-17-4, .457
Buffalo without Derek Roy: 27-12-6, .667

♦ LA with Kopitar: 42-26-6, .608
LA without Kopitar: 4-3, .571

♦ NYR with Frolov: 25-15-3, .616
NYR without Frolov: 18-17-2, .514

♦ Colorado without Peter Mueller: 29-44-8, .407

♦ Tomas Holmstrom became the 21st Swede in NHL history to score 500 points. Other notable names: teammates Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Mats (Le Petit Viking) Naslund, both Sedins, Bob Nystrom, Borje Salming, Calle Johansson, Tomas Sandstrom, and Councillor Thomas Steen. Top-scoring Swede ever: Mats Sundin (1349). NOT scoring 500 points: Hakan Loob (429), Mikael Renberg (464), Anders Hedberg (398), Pelle Eklund (455).

♦ Most useless NHL player: Trevor Gillies, meet David Koci.
Koci career stats: 141 games, 3 G, 1 A, 461 PM, -14, 33 shots
Gillies career stats: 53 games, 2 G, 1 A, 251 PM, -5, 16 shots

Runners up: DJ King, John Scott, Derek Boogaard, the retired Wade Belak (8 goals in 549 career games). Tough to argue with 33 shots in 141 games, though. But he can play D! (Of course, so can Scott.)

♦ Toronto pre-All Star Break: 19-25-5, .439
Toronto post-All Star Break: 18-8-6, .656

James Reimer: 20-9-5, 2.55, .922%, 3 shutouts
other Toronto goalies: 17-24-6, 3.05, .895%, 0 shutouts

Maybe next year.

Worthless NHL trivia of the week

Posted in Flyers-related on April 2, 2011 by wechslerh66

Ex-Flyer goalies Ray Emery, Antero Niittymaki, and Marty Biron each have the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup this season. How rare would it be? 47 different goalies have played for the Flyers since they joined the NHL in 1967. Only one has won a Cup AFTER playing for the Flyers: Ken Wregget, with the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins (with a little help from Rick Tocchet and Kjell Samuelsson). So yeah, the odds are pretty low.

Note: Two goalies won a Cup BEFORE playing for the Flyers, both with Montreal: Rick St. Croix and Michel “Bunny” Larocque, whose Flyers career lasted a total of two games.

Also note, Vancouver fans: the only goalie to win a Cup after playing for the Canucks, out of 52 total Canuck goalies: Corey Schwab, with the 2003 Devils. Sorry, Montreal (Alex Auld).

Pass the Old Milwaukee: 2011 Season Preview

Posted in non-de Jesus related on April 1, 2011 by wechslerh66

Because it wouldn’t be baseball season without a Bull Durham quote: honey, we all deserve to wear white. But only two teams will win the pennant despite their best efforts (well, 29 best efforts and the Pirates), and only one will win the World Series. San Francisco was lucky last season. My money’s on Milwaukee this season.

True, the Brewers aren’t exactly a glamor pick. But only the Reds, Phillies, and Rockies scored more runs in the NL last season, only the Reds and Rockies had a higher SLG% and OPS, and only the Reds hit more home runs. On the other hand, only two teams– Arizona and Pittsburgh– had a worse ERA, and only the Pirates had a worse ERA+. But that was before trading for Zach Greinke. And Shaun Marcum. And Sergio Mitre. (Would you rather have Ivan Nova? Well, probably, but still.) The Brewers won’t exactly tear up the NL– Yuniesky Betancourt’s career OPS+ of 84 will ensure they won’t– but the 2010 Giants only went 92-70, as did the 2008 Phillies. We’ve exorcised the ghosts of Mitch Williams and Willie Mays. Why not Gorman Thomas?

Below are my picks:

NL East

Over/under Phillies wins: 100

Worth watching: The Phab Phour plus Madson, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Werth as a National, the Mets blowing (as opposed to blowing leads, because they won’t have leads).

Ugly (or Uggly): The Braves’ defense, the Mets’ rotation, Werth’s contract, Ryan Howard’s contract, John Buck’s contract, Luis Castillo (wherever he may roam).

Ugly number: 30.9– the Phillies are the oldest team in baseball.

NL Central

Over/under Brewers wins: 92

Worth watching: Milwaukee’s Fab Four of Greinke/Gallardo/Marcum/Wolf, Pujols, Joey Votto, Starlin DeJesus Castro (no relation), Carlos Peña, Aroldis Chapman, the Penguins, the Comets (WNBA).

Ugly: Nyjer Morgan’s career OPS+ of 90, meet Yuni Betancourt; the Cubs’ OBP; replacing Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot; the Pittsburgh and Houston offenses (tied for NL-worst OPS+ of 83 in 2010– and that was with Lance Berkman).

Neither ugly nor worth watching: the Astros rotation is now Wandy Rodriguez and the Phab Three of Brett Myers, JA Happ, and Nelson Figueroa. Would Ed Wade want KendricK?

NL West

Over/under Rockies wins: 93

Worth watching: Lincecum, Bumgarner, Carlos Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Hong-Chih Kuo, Mat Latos, Heath Bell, the Phoenix Suns.

Ugly: Tony Gwynn Jr. as a regular, Juan Miranda as a regular, the 2010 Diamondbacks bullpen, the Padres’ Wrong Gonzalez Syndrome, Todd Helton’s contract, Brian Wilson’s beard.

Overrated number:
Ubaldo Jiminez, pre-all star break: 15-1, 2.20, 113 K in 127 IP
Ubaldo Jiminez, post-all star break: 4-7, 3.80, 101 K in 94 2/3 IP
Ubaldo Jiminez BABIP by month: .253, .205, .326, .250, .319, .281

NL playoff teams: Phillies, Brewers, Rockies, Reds

NL winner: Brewers

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

Over/under Red Sox wins: 97

Worth watching: Buck Showalter’s O’s, Kyle Drabek, Russell Martin, Adrian Gonzalez as a Sawk, John Lackey winning 18-20, Mariano Rivera at 41, Jose Bautista, the Rays’ Fab Five of Price/Shields/Niemann/Hellickson/Wade Davis, Brandon Morrow (10.9 K/9 in 2010), Rafael Soriano as a Yankee, Frank Francisco as a Blue Jay (why do I always confuse him with Kelvim Escobar), Yunel (no relation to Kelvim) Escobar.

Ugly: Ivan Nova as a #4 starter, either Manny Ramirez or Johnny Damon in the outfield– ever, the Blue Jays’ OBP (3rd worst in the AL in 2010 despite an AL-best SLG), the O’s Justin Duchscherer as the new Steve Ontiveros (the pitcher— Duchscherer: 33-25, 454 IP in 8 seasons, former A, most of past two full seasons missed to injury; Onto: 34-31, 661 IP in 10 seasons, former A, two full seasons missed to injury).

Ugly number: 30.7– the Red Sox are the oldest team in the AL.

Overrated number: Mark Reynolds’s K’s, if he can slug .500

AL Central
White Sox

Over/under Tigers wins: 95

Worth watching: Mauer, Verlander, the White Sox bullpen of Thornton/Sale/Ohman/Crain, Victor Martinez as a Tiger, Jake Peavy, Thome at 40, Phil Coke as a starter (update: he’s not), Joakim Soria, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Scott Baker (perpetually my “sleeper” Twins ace), Francisco Liriano, Alcides Escobar, Kila Ka’aihue, the 2012 Royals.

Ugly: Nick Blackburn’s K rate, Morneau’s concussion, Luke Hochevar as a #1 starter, Fausto Carmona as a #1 starter, ex-Phil Carlos Carrasco as a #3 starter, Brad Penny as a Tiger.

AL West
Angelus Novus of Los Anaheim

Over/under A’s wins: 91

Worth watching: The A’s Fab Four of Cahill/Anderson/Gonzalez/Braden, ex-A Haren, DeJesus as an A (no relation), Felix Hernandez, Alexei Ogando, Lucas French (Faulkneresque name only; he’s not especially good).

Ugly: Vernon Wells’s 7-year, $126M contract: dumb. Trading for Vernon Wells’s contract: dumber. Trading Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells: really dumb. Also: the Mariners’ offense (2010 OPS+ of 79– not a typo; team OBP of .298, team SLG of .339), the Mariners’ rotation minus Felix Hernandez, the A’s OBP (who would have thought?), Tommy Hunter as a #3 starter, Miguel Olivo’s awful OBP/decent SLG in Safeco.

AL playoff teams: Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, A’s

AL winner: White Sox

World Series winner: Brewers over White Sox

Phillies fans: enjoy the Harry Kalas reverse black cat.