– As we relearn every year in hockey, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The final four teams in the 2017 playoffs were drastically different in style. The defending champion Penguins were built around two megastars down the middle, a younger rotating cast of supporting pieces and a patchwork defense. The Senators have one all-world talent on defense but mainly made it so far because of an outstanding commitment to team defense and dogged determination. The Ducks have probably the league’s deepest defense and are a load to handle up front, but were very top heavy. And the Predators have the most offensively active blueline in the league to go with an under-appreciated roster of blossoming young players. There’s no one model to achieve success in today’s NHL.
– Another example of those contrasting styles is the difference in shot generation between the Penguins and Predators. Nashville is a far better possession team than Pittsburgh, which, like New York, is frequently outshot but often makes the most of its limited opportunities. Check out this thread from Adam Gretz for more on the Penguins’ success flying in the face of what analytics have taught us:
I am of the opinion that the hockey analytics community underrates high end skill.
Hear me out.
— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) June 1, 2017
– I continue to be amazed that the Penguins are still in this without Kris Letang. He’s one of the league’s great defensemen, a true No. 1. If you took Ryan McDonagh away from the Rangers, where would they be?
– On the injury front, I’m choosing to believe that four-to-six weeks off will be a good thing for Henrik Lundqvist. Hopefully that forced rest and the sweet taste of victory alongside his brother will rejuvenate The King for another run. The Jesper Fast came at an interesting time. I assume the team doctors wanted to see if Fast’s injury would heal on its own before recommending surgery, but this is obviously noteworthy with the specter of expansion looming. I’m not sure Fast was going to be the guy for Vegas anyway, but torn labrums are trickier to come back from than, say, a broken wrist. Finally, I loved Elliott Friedman’s report on Rick Nash.
-I’ve been one of Nash’s harsher critics over the years, but he was magnificent all season and during the playoffs. And for Nash to keep his mouth shut about that injury is pretty impressive given all the grief he’s gotten for past playoff failures.
– If the Golden Knights wanted to, they could make a good portion of the league miserable over the next two weeks. But that doesn’t seem to be the attitude of GM George McPhee, a long-time league executive in a wholly unique position. McPhee has plenty of strong relationships around the league and seems willing to play the long game to build his team. That means that he’s more interested in draft picks and future assets and less eager to pick apart the hard work of his rivals. Thus far the expansion draft process seems very amicable – McPhee appears to be working with his opponents to find mutually acceptable solutions rather than exercising his right to poach at will.
– I’m pretty sure Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be a Ranger, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. New York has sorely lacked shoot-first players and has desperately needed a power play specialist for years. Kovy is both of those in one man.
– How awesome has the atmosphere been in Nashville? I’m dying to go see a game there – it’s probably right behind Montreal on my arena bucket list at this point.
– Check out this video about the role Lady Luck plays in hockey. We can learn a ton about players and teams by studying long-term statistical trends, but that means squat on any given night. And in many ways, that’s what makes the sport so great.
1) Stealing this from Matt Kapnick on Twitter: which trade was worse, Ryan McDonagh for Scott Gomez, or Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat?
2) What are the top three rinks on your arena bucket list?
3) If you were McPhee, what would your big picture strategy be?