Looking ahead to the start of the conference finals tomorrow I decided to look at the Blackhawks - Sharks match up.
First comparison - players head to head:
Sharks: Marleau - Thorton - Heatley
Blackhawks: Byfuglien - Toews - Kane
One on one comparisons and musings:
Patrick Marleau vs. Dustin Buyfuglien
Marleau - regular season numbers: 82GP, 44 goals, 39 assists, +21, 22PIM, 12PPG, 4SHG, 6GWG, s%16.1.
playoff numbers: 10GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, -1, 8PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, s%7.1.
Byfuglien - regular season numbers: 82GP, 17goals, 17 assists, -7, 94PIM, 6PPG, 0SHG, 3GWG, s%8.1.
playoff numbers: 12GP, 4 goals, 2 assists, -3, 12PIM, 2PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, s%16.0.
Marleau gets the nod: No doubt that Byfuglien has raised his game for the playoffs but he's still -3 and has less potential to positively impact games on his own than Marleau. Further Marleau has averaged 4.2 SOG/game while "Big Buff" has averaged just 2.08 SOG/game so I think you have to give this match up to the Sharks.
Joe Thorton vs. Jonathan Toews
Thorton - regular season numbers: 79GP, 20 goals, 69 assists, +17, 54PIM, 4PPG, 1SHG, 2GWG, S%14.2.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 3 goals, 8 assists, -6, 16PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%12.0.
Toews - regular season numbers: 76GP, 25 goals, 43 assists, +22, 47PIM, 9PPG, 1SHG, 3GWG, S%12.4.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 6 goals, 14 assists, +4, 2PIM, 4PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%17.1
Toews has the edge. In the regular season they looked comparable, but here in the post season the Blackhawks Captain has raised his already excellent game while Thorton has played adequately and as expected, he really hasn't raised his game considerably, yet.
Dany Heatley vs. Patrick Kane
Heatley: regular season numbers - 82GP, 39 goals, 43 assists, +14, 54PIM, 18PPG, 1SHG, 9GWG, S% 13.9.
playoff numbers - 10GP, 2 goals, 9 assists, -3, 10PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%6.5.
Kane: regular season numbers - 82GP, 30 goals, 58 assists, +16, 20PIM, 9PPG, 0SHG, 6GWG, S%11.5.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 7 goals, 8 assists, +1, 4PIM, 1PPG, 1SHG, 0GWG S%20.6.
Kane gets the edge. Kane had a great regular season and has done nothing but raise his game here in the playoffs. Heatley is and has been solid but in truth in order to win this series, the entire Sharks first line likely needs to raise their game.
Overall edge goes to Chicago. So far in the playoffs the San Jose first line has been +/- negative while the entire Blackhawks first line has raised their game and the only one in +/- negative territory is Big Buff at -3. Further both Toews and Kane are at 0.5+ goals/game while Byfuglien is at 0.33 goals/game. The San Jose first line is led by Marleau at 0.3 goals per game ans a combined 0.258 goals/game for all three players.
Sharks: Clowe - Pavelski - Setoguchi
Blackhawks: Kopecky - Sharp - Hossa
Ryane Clowe vs. Tomas Kopecky
Clowe: regular season numbers - 82GP, 19 goals, 38 assists, +/-0, 131PIM, 2PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%10.1
playoff numbers - 11GP, 2 goals, 8 assists, +5, 12PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%6.3.
Kopecky: regular season numbers - 74GP, 10 goals, 11 assists, +/-0, 28PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%10.5.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 3 goals, 1 assist, +2, 4PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%17.6.
Slight edge to Clowe. Clowe gets the slight edge mainly because of his impact on the ice with 8 assists and +5, as well as his 32 SOG so far in the playoffs versus Kopecky's numbers and 17SOG.
Joe Pavelski vs. Patrick Sharp
Pavelski: regular season numbers - 67GP, 25 goals, 27 assists, +1, 26PIM, 3PPG, 1SHG, 5GWG, S%11.0.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 9 goals, 6 assists, +7, 6PIM, 5PPG, 0SHG, 3GWG, S%17.3%
Sharp: regular season numbers - 82GP, 25 goals, 41 assists, +24, 28PIM, 4PPG, 2SHG, 4GWG, S%9.1.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 5 goals, 9 assists, +2, 10PIM, 2PPG, 1SHG, 1GWG, S%11.4%.
Tight call - give the edge to Pavelski, Joe Pavelski has raised his game and his 9 post season goals including 3 game winners vs. Patrick Sharp's 5 post season goals of which 1 is a game winner gives him the edge at the start of this series.
Devin Setoguchi vs. Marian Hossa
Setoguchi: regular season numbers - 70GP, 20 goals, 16 assists, +/-0, 19PIM, 8PPG, 0SHG, 4GWG, S%12.1.
playoff numbers: 11GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, +5, 4PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%11.4
Hossa: regular season numbers - 54GP, 24 goals, 27 assists, +24, 18PIM, 2PPG, 5SHG, 2GWG, S%12.1.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 2 goals, 8 assists, +5, 19PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%5.6.
Slight edge to Setoguchi. It's hard to go against Hossa, after all as his 5 regular season SHG attest, he is one of the best talents in the game today. However the post season numbers clearly say the current edge and guy having more positive impact to his team so far this post season is Setoguchi, so you have to give him the edge right now.
Overall edge for the 2nd line goes to San Jose. Basically this is the opposite story as the one on the first line. Chicago's second line needs to step it up, though clearly for San Jose to win, their second line needs to continue to play the elevated game they have displayed so far this post season as well.
Sharks: Coutoure- Malhotra-Mitchell
Blackhawks: Ladd - Bolland - Versteeg
Logan Couture vs. Andrew Ladd
Coutoure: regular season numbers - 25GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, +4, 6PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%11.9.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 3 goals, 0 assists, +2, 2PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%23.1.
Ladd: regular season numbers - 82GP, 17 goals, 21 assists, +2, 67PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 1GWG, S%11.5
playoff numbers - 12GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, -2, 8PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%6.3.
Edge goes to 21 year old Logan Couture. Coutore has managed to play solid hockey both in his 25 regular season games as well as during his 8 post season games, while Ladd hasn't been much of a factor at all post season though his regular season numbers and effort shows he has the ability to deliver the goods as a solid third liner and could be a factor if he steps things up though Coutoure's 8 goals in 34 games puts him just about on a 20 goal regular season and seems to indicate he's in San Jose to stay.
Manny Malhotra vs. Dave Bolland
Malhotra: regular season numbers - 71GP, 14 goals, 19 assists, +17, 41PIM, 2PPG, 0SHG, 4GWG, S%12.6.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, +/-0, 0PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%3.3.
Bolland: regular season numbers - 39GP, 6 goals, 10 assists, +5, 28PIM, 1PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%11.5.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, -1, 18PIM, 1PPG, 1SHG, 1GWG, S%18.8.
Slight edge goes to Bolland. Manny Malhotra is one of the 7 forwards the coach Todd McLellan gives a fair amount of ice time, and his ability in the faceoff circle as well as his solid two way play is the reason why. However so far in the post season Dave Bolland has made a much greater positive impact and contribution to his team's results.
Torrey Mitchell vs. Kris Versteeg
Mitchell: regular season numbers - 56GP, 2 goals, 9 assists, +6, 27PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%3.4.
playoff numbers - 11GP, o goals, 4 assists, -4, 2PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%0.
Versteeg: regular season numbers - 79GP, 20 goals, 24 assists, +8, 35PIM, 4PPG, 3SHG, 4GWG, S%10.9.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, -2, 6PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%9.4.
Versteeg by a wide margin. Kris Versteeg is far and away a greater impact player than Torrey Mitchell and so far this post season his 2 game winning goals is one more than all three Shark third liners combined and his average TOI is significantly greater than either Mitchell's or Coutoure's.
Overall edge for the third line goes to Chicago by a visible margin. If this series comes down to "the grinders", especially the third liners, unless Manny Malhotra steps up his game in a big way and Torrey Mitchell has at least two or three career best games, San Jose will be in for a tough challenge. If it comes down to that, such a challenge that their blue line corps and goaltender will find difficult to rise to.
Sharks: McGinn -Nichol - Helminen
Backhawks: Eager - Madden - Burrish
Jamie McGinn vs. Ben Eager
McGinn: Regular Season Numbers - 59GP, 10 goals, 3 assists, -3, 38PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%13.2
playoff numbers - 11GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, +1, 8PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%0.
Eager: Regular Season Numbers - 60GP, 7 goals, 9 assists, +9, 120PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 2GWG, S%10.3.
playoff numbers - 8GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1, 8PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%0.
It's basically a draw, neither McGinn or Eager have made that big an impact in the post season and as far as potential goes, Eager's edge in +/- is counterweighted by his 120 PIM, other than that their numbers are pretty similar. Eager's got more experience but his performance in 27 NHL post season contests has so far been uninspired. Basically on a college grading scale you'd give these guys both an incomplete.
Scott Nichol vs. John Madden.
Nichol: regular season numbers - 79GP, 4 goals, 15 assists, +/-0, 72PIM, 0PPG, 1SHG, 0GWG, S%4.3.
playoff numbers - 11GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, +/-0, 17PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%5.6.
Madden: regular season numbers - 79GP, 10 goals, 13 assists, -2, 12PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%7.9.
playoff numbers - 12GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, -3, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%6.7.
Another draw and this one is even closer than McGinn vs. Eager.
Dwight Helminen vs. Adam Burish
Helminen: regular season numbers - 4GP, 1 goal, 0 assist, -1, 0PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%100.
playoff numbers - 7GP, 1 goal, 0 assist, +/-0, 4PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%20.0.
Burish: regular season numbers - 13GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, +2, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%11.1.
playoff numbers - 8GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, -2, 0PIM, 0PPG, 0SHG, 0GWG, S%0.
Edge here to Helminen. While Helminen hasn't made much of his 7 playoff games in San Jose, Burish has been invisible in his 8 playoff games this season so far.
All the above said, if the series relies on the fourth liners to make a difference it's hard to give too much of an edge to San Jose. I say this because of the paltry amount of TOI that San Jose's fourth has gotten of late. So right now I call the fourth line overall a toss-up.
San Jose: Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jason Demers.
Chicago: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Hendry, Brent Sopel.
Throughout the playoffs so far San Jose has allowed an average of 2.54 goals against per game on an average of 28.1 shots against per game while Chicago has allowed an average of 2.75 goals against on an average of 28.1 shots against per game. Also, you have to take into account that Chicago played Vancouver after opening up the playoffs against Nashville, while San Jose opened against Colorado before playing the second round against Detroit. While San Jose's total average goals against is 2.54, they allowed and average GAA of 3.4 against Detroit while Chicago held Vancouver's potent offense to an average GAA of 1.833.
The edge for the defense corps goes to Chicago by a visible margin at this moment.
Evgeni Nabakov vs. Antti Niemi
Nabakov: regular season numbers - 71GP, 44W, 16L, 10 OTL SV%0.922, GAA 2.43
playoff numbers - 11GP 8W, 3L, SV% 0.907, GAA 2.43.
Niemi: regular season numbers - 39GP, 26W, 7L, 4OTL, SV%0.912, GAA 2.25
playoff numbers - 12GP, 8W, 4L, SV% 0.909, GAA 2.57.
Another toss-up though if you had to pick right now I wouldn't bet against the veteran Nabakov.
What's all this mean? To means this series is going at least 6 if not 7 games and it's likely too close to call. The reason they play these games on the ice will be to see if the San Jose 1st line will return to above regular season form and Evgeni Nabokov will continue to outplay the opposing goaltender while the 2nd line continues to play as it has for the first two series and the defense continues to play solid hockey; or will Chicago's Antti Niemi and their second line raise their game while the rest of the Blackhawks play as they have so far throughout the playoffs. The answers to those questions will likely decide the series. If all that happens, then it might come down to depth and in that case you have to like Chicago's edge on the third line unless they falter. So once again - no predictions, anything could happen in this one, but it does seem likely it will be a fun series to watch.
I'll take a look at the Canadiens - Flyers match-up but probably not until they've already played their first game. So I'll give you the BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front - once again anything can happen. Neither the #8 seed Canadiens and the #7 seed Flyers were suppossed to be here. Now they both enter the Eastern Conference Finals playing solid team hockey with a lot of confidence. I'll give a minor edge to the Canadiens, for no other reason than Jaroslav Halak's solid play. However, the Flyers comeback win in game 7 of the Bruins Series where they scored four (4) unanswered goals was just tremendously impressive so again it's a really a toss-up with some amazing storylines starting with French-Canadian Simon Gagne playing with a broken foot, to Hal Gill vs. Chris Pronger though I don't know how often they will be on the ice at the same time.
Hey one last thing for us Capitals fans - Is it September yet?