Friday, May 13, 2011

Choking Chokers and Those Who Are Not

Went splitsies on my predictions last round. Eight and four now. Had an inkling about Tampa but really did not expect them to win. Absolutely thought Detroit would knock off San Jose but they ran out of bodies. This team is getting old. They're still fantastic but Holland is going to have to do some fancy juggling to make sure they don't fade back into the pack now that it looks like the Lidstrom era is winding down. Way too many guys on the wrong side of thirty.

Of course when one of those guys is Pavel Datsyuk perhaps its not so bad after all. A couple of weeks ago Tom Benjamin was musing about the Selke nominees, stating that he's take that lot (Datsyuk, Towes, Kesler) over the Hart nominees (Perry, St. Louis, D. Sedin) any day. No disagreement from this corner.

I was indisposed for most of the second round, really missing the meat of the matter and so take the comments that follow with a grain (ok larger than normal grain) of salt.

I find the whole idea of players being clutch or chokers to be, well, not entirely untrue but certainly extremely iffy. Its all a narrative of course and the media feed the beast. I thought Joe Thornton played a great game last night but I have found that for at least the last two playoff seasons he has been topnotch. If San Jose had lost he would have been gutted by the media but they won and so the monkey is off his back. No word on what will happen if they lose to the Canucks. As for Patty Marleau he went from being gutless to being the hero all in the time it takes to tap one in. Marleau strikes me as the quiet type and he's streaky and like most streaky scorers he can either look great or terrible. He actually scores a lot of goals in the playoffs, though apparently not in games six or seven until last night. So he scores and now he is no longer a choker, he has guts and heart and all that good stuff. Until the next round.

Its all part of the mythology surrounding the game. The funny thing of course is how so many of the great clutch players just happen to be amongst the greatest players of all time. Facing tighter checking and better clubs did not stop the likes of Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Messier, Mario Lemieux, Sakic, Yzerman, Esposito, Forsberg and so on because they are the pantheon by which everyone else is measured. One other thing - they all won. Patrick Roy's playoff gaffes, and he had a few, are forgotten because of the Stanley Cup rings blocking his ears. Marty Brodeur too.

As for your lesser lights well you have interesting cases. I'm not talking about your Fernando Pisanis and John Druces, your Bergenheims and Wards, guys who suddenly go on a tear. I'm talking about Kesler and the Sedins and our friends in San Jose, the guys just down the ladder from the superstars.

If you have the rep you have to do one of two things. Win or produce other worldly numbers. Marian Hossa's numbers in the playoffs ranged from good to terrific in his five playoff years before last season. When he played with the Pens he had twenty six points in twenty games. Or well, maybe you just have to win if you're certain players because until last year Hossa had that rep. Poor playoff performer. After a season where he averaged over a point per game. Tough crowd if you're European I think. And then he won that Cup and now its ok.

Jonathan Toews had no goals last year in the Finals. Of course he had that World Juniors' gold and that Olympic gold but winning the Cup? Well those zero goals are forgotten.



(By the way I have absolutely no explanation for Claude Lemieux. He was a good player but in the playoffs he was all world. An outlier I guess? Anyone?)

So for Kesler and the Sedins, Thornton, Marleau and Heatley there is a lot riding on the next two weeks. For Kesler, who singlehandedly trashed Nashville, there is less at stake, but for the others this series might make or break their reputations, at least until next season. Vancouver goes to the final and the Sedins make a lot of noise? They're looking good. Another series where they do little? You can bet there will be calls for their heads. A San Jose win and Thornton would be vindicated. Marleau too probably. Heatley, he who scores all of his goals against the Latvias and Japans and Frances of the world, is so thoroughly unlikeable, would have to go on a tear to erase his noshows in 2007, the Olympics of 2006 and 2010, his disappearing act every year when the going gets tough.

And of course in my own little way I just revealed another contributor to all of this. Heatley, being a douchebag, gets no rope at all. I may not believe in choking except when it comes to the shrivelled little ballsack between the legs of number fifteen. Then its all true, every last bit of it. ;)

So who will go to the Finals? Well for my pool I need the Canucks and Bruins to win. I'm a strong third and still have eight of ten players left. Ideally the Bruins would sweep and the Canucks would win in six or seven. Probably be all set then.

But ... while that is also the final I would like to see (I would like to see Boston win and I do not want Heatley anywhere near raising the Cup) I'm thinking its not going to work out that way.

In the East I would pick Boston if Bergeron is healthy and so that is my caveat - if he plays every game this series then I'll go with the Bruins. Without him though, well that's a huge loss. Only Chara would be bigger imo. They are deep up front, yes, and of course they have the big man on the back end, but I think Bergeron's loss might tip it in Tampa's direction. Roloson is playing superbly and Yzerman has just loaded this club with solid veteran players - Kubina, Gagne, Moore, Bergenheim, Brett Clark, Brewer. Just a long list of professional players and what appears to be a terrific young coach. Of course if Chara can shut down St. Louis, well then ....

Damnit I don't know. OK I'll go with my gut. Tampa in seven. Sadly.

As for the west I like Vancouver's D a lot more but San Jose has the edge up front. The Sharks have talisman Antii Niemi between the pipes and like last year when he looks shitty he really looks shitty but when he looks good he's damn good. A very small part of me would like to see San Jose win because I like the whole Niemi story. Wins the Cup, gets dumped, goes to arch rival, struggles, finds his game, has new club on a roll. I don't blame Chicago, I think Crawford is actually probably a better goalie. But I like Niemi. He's a Finlander after all.

Like the eastern series this is a pick em to me. I look at the Canucks and I see the Sedins doing fuck all and I think they can't do it but then again San Jose is San Jose. They can't win, right? Right? They barely beat a Wings' team that was old and broken down. Plus they have Heatley and Ian White. Fucking assholes.


Ok Canucks in seven although its a tossup. In the end I think San Jose's backend is just too iffy and the Sedins are too good to not come through.

And if they don't?



Woodguy said...

I agree that Bergeron is key.

Its interesting that Seguin is stepping into Bergeron's spot between Recchi and Marchand.

Seguin played mostly with the dregs on the 4th line in the regular season and he may just have his coming out party this spring.

Tough series to call. BOS in 7

I also agree that SJS has more on 3 lines than VAN has seen so far this year (CHI was a 2 line team, NAS a No-line team).

I think that fire power gets to LOLongo and they light him up ala-CHI with 3 lines. SJS forwards are big and cycle better than anyone in the NHL which will help keep possession in the VAN zone.

If its Thorton v Kessler, Thorton wins outright and also has better line mates. If the pisscutters can't do their thing, the series will be short.

SJS in 6.

Fuck the Dys.
Fuck them and people who look like them.

Noodles said...

Re: Claude Lemieux's clutchiness

Steve Smith had a post on this a little while back: Clutching Claude

JDS said...

Nice post. Generally I agree with the idea of taking the Selke nominees over the Hart nominees, but I would want to keep Martin St. Louis. People forget that he is a damn good two-way player who is strong on defense and has a knack for scoring short-handed goals. Or maybe I'm biased because I'm from Tampa. Anyway, may the best team prevail and I hope it's the Lightning!

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Noodles, thanks.

Woodguy - I think Kesler can beat Thornton outright. Speed kills the Sharks. Its a pick em though.

Mirtle posted at the Globe that Kelly was moving to Bergeron's spot and Seguin would play ion Peverley's wing. Guess we'll see how Julien rolls them.

JDS - love St. Louis, I really do and all three Hart nominees are terrific players. Just think Datsyuk, Kesler, Toews are better players. But St. Louis is fantastic, no doubt.

I like Tampa's chances.

Ribs said...

I went 1 for 4 in the second round. Ouch.

Philly really let me down. The dummies couldn't have just played Bobrovsky and stayed with him. They'd rather try the merry-go-round instead. I was assuming Pronger would have been back and that he would be a large fatcor but it was not meant to be. The Flyers looked tired from game one. They dumped and didn't chase time and time again. I don't know how you win hockey games like that. Oh well. RIP my pool team.

I still have Marleau and Heatley in the pool, so I guess San Jose winning is okay? As I had feared, the Sharks manly men rained down on Detroits defence and in the end it was too much for them. Niemi was the reason I had picked San Jose to lose the series but he was probably the reason they won it instead. Funny how that works sometimes.

Tampa! I really wanted them to win but didn't think they could do it. When you're playing against these guys, you can't take penalties. It has to be the game plan. I'm not sure Washington had a game plan. They were horrid. Backstrom in the pool. Thanks, guy.

I picked Vancouver by a hair and it went down as I had imagined. Lots of close games in this one. I really hate that the Canucks have Kesler. Beauty player and I've been saying it for a few years now.

I'm thinking San Jose takes Vancouver if they're not too tired. Vancouver is number one in hits and San Jose sits at number two. Nashville is third but I don't think they're as physical as the Sharks. Vancouver will have their hands full.

With that said, Niemi could again be the deciding factor in this one. A lot of pressure on him now.

I'm cheering the Bolts on to the cup now so I'm picking them. That powerplay is insanely good and I haven't been too impressed with Bostons play so far. The Bruins are last in penalty kill percentage of the remaining teams and the Bolts are tops in both powerplay and penalty kill. A recipe for success.

Bergeron is nuts if he thinks he can play again this year. Any doctor that allows that needs to have his license taken away.

It will be interesting to see what Seguin can do!

Anonymous said...

Who are the Dys? And the pisscutters?

Black Dog said...

Anon - Dys refer to the Canucks due to their dynasty right before the lockout when they won all of those Cups, a little Dennis King sarcasm for some fans who got a little ahead of themselves

Pisscutters are the Sedins - Lowetide came up with that, he explained the term a while back, can't remember it exactly but its a term of respect

Ribs said...

Piss Cutters

spOILer said...

I don't think that Red Wings team is getting the proper credit. Didn't Scotty Bowman say they were better than the Red Wing team San Jose beat last year? They were a bit banged up, but they're still a quality side. Better than the popgun Nashville Pekkators.

I have Van, SJ, Bos, and Philly on my pool team so I'm looking good. To win out though I will need Van to lose as most others in the pool hammered the Canucks, whereas I only have Kesler & the Sedin sisters.

"Indisposed"? Lol. Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Black Dog said...

Thanks Ribs. And yeah without Pronger Philly was doomed. Plus the goaltending.

SpOILer- I figured the Wings v Canucks but injuries did them in. A healthy Franzen would have been huge.

They're getting old though, if Lidstrom retires it will be interesting to see what they do.

Bruce said...

What a difference between East and West in Round 2. Down east two sweeps, one of which that included 3 four-goal blowouts, while out west the series went 7 and 6 games with every single game in both series decided by one goal with the quasi-exception that two games had empty netters.

I'm sure that Philly can solve their issues by signing four more $850 K goaltenders. That way they'll have the depth to go seven by having a brand new dude in pads come in halfway through every game. That'll keep the opposition confused, for sure.

All of which makes the Flyers Exhibit A to all those folks that think buying proven goaltending is a waste of money.

PDO said...

Detroit Exhibit B?


Bruce said...

@PDO: Wasn't Detroit the team that bought Dominik Hasek?

Black Dog said...

Just have to buy the right unproven/average goalie.

Someone on Twitter (Friedman maybe?) last night said Niemi might be the 'best average goalie ever'.

Certainly since the lockout the argument sort of holds water. Before the lockout Cup winning goalies included Brodeur, Roy, Hasek, Belfour, Khabibulin (the good), Vernon, Richter, Barrasso. Really the only guy you might take issue with as unproven would be Osgood. And we're talking Hall of Famers for the most part on that list and proven vets when not.

Since the lockout you have a raw rookie in Ward, Giguere, Osgood, Fleury and Niemi. Giguere was proven, Fleury had draft pedigree, Osgood had won a Cup but the list pales in comparison.

With all of that said this year's Cup will be won by either a longtime veteran with pedigree or the guy who won last year.

Swabbubba said...

Since my pool is dead. I am going with the ex Oiler count. As much as I hate the style that they play that leaves me with Tampa Bay. I would like to see Roloson get some respect he is the Rodney Dangerfield of the goalies. The Canucks need to find another gear if they really want this they were lucky last night seemed they got every call possible. That said I see a SJ vs TB for the cup. That should doom them both...