Sunday, January 4, 2009

Caps 2, Rangers 1 - A Two Point Night With Lots of Color Thrown In To Boot

Musings Prompted By Caps 2, Rangers 1
It was another two point night at Verizon Center last night as the Capitals bested the New York Rangers 2 -1. As has already been chronicled elsewhere in the blogsphere, it was an interesting game despite, or perhaps because of, the low score to say the least. Commissioner Gary Bettman please not, good, exciting hockey does NOT necessarily mean that five or more goals need to be scored, every game.
Of course, Bet-Man and his sidekick Colin Campbell, aka Police Commissioner Gordon, can't be happy with the thuggish/rogue image professional Ice Hockey displayed yesterday. In case you missed it there were several events that probably disturbed them yesterday. League favorite/poster-boy/Mr. Clean (at least according to the Penguins' blogsphere) got into the second real fight of his career; AND he managed to finish it without hitting anyone below the belt. Way to go, Sid; by the way that phone ringing is Colin, he wants to talk. Then after that, the Capitals second best forward, Alexander Semin, got into a fight with Marc Staal of the Rangers in the third period, and "Ohhhh myyyyy gooodnesss", ... lost his jersey, because he didn't have his fight strap/tie-down on (game misconduct). (Yet another dumb rule of the Bet-Man era. Ladies chime in here but be honest, your reaction at being able to see Semin's upper body contours outlined in his armor-all garb was what? If the majority of you say aghast and disturbed, I will drop my objection to the rule, despite being populist by political persuasion.) Please note, that while Semin automatically gets a game misconduct for failing to properly use his tie-down; Mr. Crosby did not get one for his, using the vernacular from the Penguins fan blog, Pensblog, "nut tap." Also, contrary to all those who want to see ice hockey become a non-contact sport and allege that Alexander Ovechkin's style of play is not passionate but rather is reckless; Jamie Heward, the former teammate and freind who was accidentally injured during a collision with Ovechkin on Thursday has weighed in on his feelings about the hit. Heward indicated two things of note, he is sure knowing Alex Ovechkin well the injury wasn't intentional, and he will be working to come back ad return to play. Sorry Pensbloggers, I don't think you can call that the NHL sweeping the "incident" under the rug; also I doubt you'll find anyone besides you saying they feel the most reviled unsportsmanlike act in male athletic contest - hitting below the belt - is just Sidney Crosby. or anybody else for that matter, "playing hard on you, but now that I know it was him that punched my crotch, I know it wasn't intentional." I know watching that YouTube Video is why I'm glad he's the face of the NHL and that he got over 1.5M votes on the All Star Game Ballot. (For the record, in the 2000 Census, the city of Pittsburgh had a population of just over 335,000, of which apparently at least 100 are Crosby and Malkin fans and know how to use PERL and/or JAVA scripting. Aside from being the home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city is indeed also home to Carnegie Mellon University. Why the guys in Silicon Valley couldn't figure out how to get the Western Conference lineup stacked with San Jose Sharks though remains a mystery; I guess the recent economic turmoil on Wall Street and the devaluation of their portfolios have them a little preoccupied.

Why You Don't Want To Be The Lowest Scoring Team In The NHL -
No Matter How Good Your Defense Or Goaltending Is......

While a good defense and solid goaltending are essential if your team is to win a Stanley Cup Championship, a minimum amount of offense is required to win games in the NHL. What level is that you might ask. Well consider this statistic, exclusive of the 69 shutouts logged in the NHL and as of completion of tonight's play there will have been 575 games completed. In 470 of the 506 non-shutout games (92.9%), in order to garner two standings points, the winning team needed to score 2 or more goals. There are two basic rules of thumb to look at when determining by statistical analysis how many goals a game on average you need to score to consistently win in the NHL - average number of goals per game and average GF vs. GA differential. Basically, if you see a team with an average number of goals per game of 2.75 or greater AND a positive GF vs. GA differential, you'll also notice they are looking pretty good in the standings. In fact of the top 8 teams in both conferences, at this time only five do not meet the statistical criteria listed above. In the East there are two teams in the top eight who don't have BOTH an average goals scored per game of 2.75 or greater AND a positive GF/GA differential: the fourth place New York Rangers (2.70 avg. goals/game, -1) and the seventh place Carolina Hurricanes (2.625 avg. goals/game, -11). In the Western Conference there are three teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, that don't meet that criterion: the sixth place Anaheim Ducks (2.85 average goals/game BUT a -1 GF vs. GA differential), the seventh place Phoenix Coyotes (2.62 avg. goals/game, -8), and the eighth place Columbus Blue Jackets (2.67 avg. goals/game, -5). Factor in the consideration that with the exception of the Anaheim Ducks, all of these teams have been playing better than 0.500 hockey over the last 10 games and it appears likely that all the teams that make the playoffs at season end will indeed have an average goals scored/game of at least 2.75 goals/game. It also appears extremely probable that with the possible exception of the eight place team in each division that all teams in the playoffs will have a positive GF vs. GA differential at season's end as well. Over 82 games that means that a team will need to score on average at least 226 goals in order to attain the 92-96 points it will take to make this years NHL playoffs. Just another perspective to consider when looking at the outlook between now and the end of the regular season.

This isn't meant to be a slam on the Rangers, at least not as much of one as it appears, they have talented scorers in their lineup, they just aren't getting enough production out of them right now. To be clear last night's game with the Capitals was as close to "playoff hockey" as you are likely to see in January; however, it's still the regular season and in the regular season, you need to score at least 2 goals in regulation if you are going to win the majority of your games. Unless the Rangers open things up a little on the offensive end and get more shots on net, they aren't going to do that. The same can be said of the other teams in the league with similar or fewer average goals/game than the Rangers. This is disquieting to me since I believe the league office will continue to work to dilute other aspects of defensive and physical parts of the game until they see the average total goals per game begin to rise again. I feel they will do this under the misguided notion that more goals/game automatically means more excitement and that will automatically bring in more fans.

How's this for weird, actually I guess "just dumb" are better words for it
As of today the Eastern Conference's starting lineup for this year's NHL All Star Game doesn't have a single player on it from any team that is winning it's division. In fact the top two vote getters on the Eastern Conference team, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, deserving as they are currently the number 1 and number 3 scorers in the NHL today, wouldn't be in this year's playoffs in the season ended tomorrow. The other four spots are all Montreal Canadeans, again solid players but all currently on a team that is second in it's own division and fifth in the conference, 12 points behind the Conference leaders. The Western Conference starting lineup is no better it's evenly split between 3 Chicago Blackhawks and 3 Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks are currently in fourth place and the Ducks are currently in sixth place in the conference, and while it's hard to argue against Ryan Gretzlaf and Patrick Kane's inclusion the rest of the West's starting lineup is as questionable as the Eastern Conference lineup other than Crosby and Malkin. The lack of the presence of Alexander Ovechkin and at least one of the Bruins goaltenders, I'd say Tim Thomas on the Eastern Conference starting lineup and the lack of presence of Evgeni Nabokov and either Pavel Dasuyk, Hemrik Zetterberg or Nicklas Lidstrom on the Western Conference lineup is basically laughable. When you look at the results of this year's All Star Game lineup selection process, you have to agree with Caps coach Bruce Boudreau who reportedly has said: "It's dumb." If ever there was an argument AGAINST having fans vote in any sort of manner that lets them vote more than once a piece AND NOT balancing that somehow against input from a) other players, b) NHL team coaching and management staffs and c) the professional hockey writers who follow the sport routinely, this years "balloting process" (using the term process loosely) is it.

Well, time to get on with "Life Approaching 50" type stuff. Next up, the Flyers at Verizon Center, Tuesday Night. I'll be there cheering the Caps on towards, what will hopefully be their 7th win in a row. We all know that the last team to beat the Capitals was the Flyers, so it'll be another tough one.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

Dan, Jr. said...

I totally agree that a game with a high score doesn't automatically equal a more exciting game than one with a lower score. If the puck is constantly flying into the net, the quality of hockey being played might not be very good.

There's nothing dirtier than intentionally hitting a guy in the sack.

The current All-Star voting system is a joke.