Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chapter 1 of 4

And now, a little break at the perfect time. Nine shots for Hossa last night, including a record seven in the first period. He actually outshot Ottawa 7-5 in the first. I can see why people are down on him. All he ever does is find an open seam in the ice and get the puck on net. And Fleury continued playing like a girl. A girl who leads the NHL Playoffs in GAA and save percentage. Like Manon Rheaume, except dominant.

Ottawa played like they had a charity golf scramble Thursday morning and didn't want to tire themselves out for the 8am shotgun start. Hell, they were even shooting wide of the net from a foot away so they didn't accidentally win. What a sad performance. Intentionally losing the season finale to Philly was a stroke of genius. Martin Gerber is probably looking at the team photo this morning and individually frowning at every person in there.

And while the Penguins face a tough summer of figuring out whether to keep Ryan Malone or Marian Hossa, thank Christ they don't have to figure out what to do with Jason Spezza, who will be making $7 million a year for the next 7 years. That guy plays like a stone cold bitch. Exactly the type of player who will have five points in an 8-4 win and zero points in a 3-2 loss.

After publicly asking Bryan Murray to put the big line together, to put Alfredsson and Heatley back on his wings, Spezza responded with a dazzling -2. Because they're such close teammates, Alfie and Heater put up a -2 as well just so Spezza wouldn't stick out. So he could stay invisible. One assist in the entire series. One $7 million assist.

Let's take a look at the Spezza splits. He played in 38 wins this year, racking up 22-41-63 and a +34. Good numbers, probably assisted by the fact that Ottawa's top line always seems to be on the ice against the empty net. In 38 losses, he went 12-17-29 and -8.

I know what you're thinking. "Jason Spezza is handsome and yeah, he doesn't play much defense and also he makes a lot of turnovers on fancy plays, but when he scores, Ottawa wins. They need him! If he doesn't score, they lose and thus he is good."

Okay. Fine. He also had zero overtime points this year. He put up 38 points when Ottawa was winning in a game, 30 when they were tied, but only 24 when they were losing. He also had 21 points in the last five minutes of a game, though no word on how many were empty netters. He only had 10 points that Yahoo defines as clutch, whatever that might mean. I'm going to guess it's somewhere in the realm of down by one or tied in the last five minutes of a game.

Conversely, in 22 losses played this year, Sidney Crosby had 23 points. He had 19 points while winning, 20 while losing and a stunning 33 when a game was tied. He also had 14 clutch points. That, my friends, is a gamebreaker. In 35 losses played, Malkin had 32 points. 35 when winning, 39 when tied and a remarkable 32 points when the Penguins were trailing, with 16 clutch points.

If you're playing the Los Angeles Kings in December and you're ahead 5-1 in the third period, send Spezza over the boards. If you're the playoffs and you need a goal, go with Crosby or Malkin.

Now the Penguins can sit back, watch the Center Ice package and wait to see if they'll be playing Washington, New York, New Jersey or Boston. (Hint: It won't be Boston)


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't let MAF sit back and relax too long... his oh so impressive post-season play may get a little rusty. I hope he sleeps with his stick and dreams about stopping pucks as a reminder.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we weren't the only ones who thought the Pens (including MAF) had an easier opening series, all stats aside...

Gonchar gets defensive with team's critics - Penguins' veteran claims Ottawa was no pushover
Monday, April 21, 2008
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
… the notion that the Penguins weren't seriously tested in their opening-round sweep of Ottawa in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and thus might not be fully prepared for more rigorous challenges they figure to face as the spring moves along.

For while the Penguins still don't know who they'll face in Round 2 - it's almost guaranteed that the series will not go as smoothly as the Ottawa one did.

"We weren't faced with huge challenges, in the sense that we didn't have to rebound from a tough loss," Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo said.

There were a few rough patches, … But, most of Ottawa's storms were broken up before the Penguins had to weather them.

The Penguins recognize, however, that they will face more in coming weeks, that they will not sweep every series and there will be situations in which their talents and intangibles will face severe tests.

Winning a Stanley Cup wouldn't be so special if it didn't require such a Herculean effort by so many people.