Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What We Learned from the Conference Finals

We're only a few weeks away from crowning this year's Stanley Cup champion and we have learned so much on this journey. 

Centre depth is important

- Amazing that Chicago won a Stanley Cup and made another conference final with Michal Handzus as their No. 2 centre. Handzus looked like the 37-year-old man he was during the post-season. The Hawks conceded nearly 64% of all even-strength shot attempts with Handzus on the ice and were outscored 12-3. Remember, this is the guy Dave Bolland couldn't beat out for ice time at the end of last season. Worth the money, right? Mikhail Grabovski is someone who would have looked great in that spot for the Hawks, but being so tight to the cap they couldn't come close to affording his relatively modest contract in the off-season. Have to believe that's a spot the Hawks try to upgrade this off-season.

Dynasties always last forever, right?

- The Hawks and the Kings look like they are locked in as the teams to beat in the West for a long time. Both Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar might be the two best non-Crosby centres in the league and both teams are deep throughout the lineup. Things can change pretty quickly, though. The Kings have a pretty thin system thanks to a few years of making major acquisitions and the Hawks have to re-sign Toews and Patrick Kane soon, which could make for some interesting cap casualties. It looks bleak right now for the rest of the West but neither team is flawless.

Don't sign goalies to huge contracts unless named Henrik or Tuukka

- Speaking of which... The Western Conference Final definitely wasn't a ringing endorsement for long-term goalie contracts. Neither Corey Crawford nor Jonathan Quick could stop much of anything. Quick's awful .889 save percentage looked like vintage Hasek next to Crawford's ugly .878 save percentage. Woof. Crawford's $6 million a year extension doesn't kick in until next season and then lasts until 2020; Quick is signed until 2023.

Seriously, don't do it

- Not sure there is a player who has forged a phony reputation on one big year better than Quick. He's only been decidedly above average in one season with the Kings, which just so happened to be the year they won the Cup and he was a brick wall. Thanks to that year—which earned him his big money deal—he's counted among the best in the league. Except over the last five years his save percentage is .915. That's 26th out of goalies who have appeared in at least 50 games. James Reimer—who is pretty much being run out of Toronto—has a .914 save percentage over that span. Before you could at least say Quick brought it in the playoffs, but I'm not sure that's the case anymore.

Henrik deserves his money and has his chance to prove it

- Kings are heading into the Stanley Cup Final as big time favourites against the Rangers, and while from the net out they are much better than the Rangers, Hank is the big equalizer. If Quick keeps posting save percentages hovering around .900 and Lundqvist provides his standard .920+ the difference in shot differential won't be as pronounced and the Rangers have more than a chance.

Habs are hateable, but deserve a moment of respect

- As much as I hate them, you have to respect the effort by the Montreal Canadiens. Losing their No. 1 goalie in the first game, yet still giving New York everything they had and making the series plenty interesting. Not many people gave Montreal a shot after Price went down, but they definitely caused a scare. Okay, enough of that good will.

The most hateable player on the other team is probably his fans' most beloved

- Brendan Gallagher is quickly approaching Brad Marchand levels of ratiness. If those two ever collide I'm pretty sure they will explode and a million Ken Linsemans will scurry away. I'm sure if you're a Canadiens fan he's amazing, but the rest of the world hates him.

The best tears

- Are Habs tears.


ian said...

I think your Dad probably hates the Habs more now than ever after they crushed his Bruins. I found it surprising how many Leaf fans that have always been Hab haters were cheering for them to advance past the Rangers.

Matt Horner said...

Any alleged Leafs fan caught cheering for the Habs must immediately revoke their membership in Leafs Nation.

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