The Conference Finals in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference offer a group of fascinating story lines and opportunities to analyze the teams and the NHL in 2014. With each game during both Conference Finals, Hockey Prospectus will look at what the statistics say about the direction of the series, the league and who will raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Game 4: Rangers 3 Canadiens 2 (OT)
1) 56-56, 29-29
In 66 minutes of Game 4 hockey, the Rangers and Canadiens each took 56 shot attempts and 29 shots on goal. Most of the games during this series have had swings in dominance, this one was neck and neck from start to finish. Sure, overall Corsi and Fenwick can be thrown for a loop by score effects and power plays, but Montreal’s Corsi percentages in the previous three games were 45.6%, 64.5% and 41.4%. While Dustin Tokarski has been decent, the Habs have a significant disadvantage in net and will have to dominate play to get back in the series. It seems unlikely that that will happen, considering that one of their best games was 50-50.
Shot attempt chart via extraskater.com
If you are a Rangers fan, you probably already knew that Ryan McDonagh is a superstar. If you didn’t follow them closely, this series should have opened your eyes to McDonagh being an elite No. 1 defenseman. In Game 4, he played 30.2 minutes, the most of anyone except Norris Trophy D-man P.K. Subban. When he was on the ice, the Rangers out-shot the Habs 9-7 and the forwards he faced most often were Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. The Rangers’ No. 1 defenseman added 7.6 shorthanded minutes, the most of any New York player.
The storylines surrounding Martin St. Louis have oft involved the passing of his mother and the team being galvanized by his loss. If that had not happened, we would be talking about the great play of the former Tampa Bay star. The Rangers’ trade has come up roses to the tune of six goals during the playoffs. The 10 is the number of shots on goal St. Louis has had in the last two games. His shots per 60 minutes of ice time is 7.7/60, which is up from his regular season 7.2 and way up from 2013 year of 6.4. Despite his production, New York’s talented winger has still been a little unlucky, with an on-ice shooting percentage of 6.9%. His regular season on-ice save % was 9.3%, which was still a tad low compared to his past few years. All that is just to say: St. Louis has been great and has made a huge impact offensively over the last two games.
4) .931, .934, .931
Henrik Lundqvist just continues to be incredible in the playoffs. Those are his last three playoff save percentages – all would be worthy of a Vezina Trophy if repeated over a full season. It also suggests the Canadiens have the uphill battle of all uphill battles if they are going to come back from down 3 games to 1. The Rangers have only allowed 14 EV goals during the playoffs. There are few certainties when it comes to goaltending – and we’ll debate until the end of the Earth whether you need an elite goalie to win the Cup – but Lundqvist being the best in the NHL is not debatable anymore.
If you’re looking forward to a Rangers-Kings Stanley Cup Final (of course, you can’t count out either Montreal or Chicago), you would start looking for indicators that either club will fall off their pedestal and run into the Small Sample Gods. The Rangers’ PDO of 105.6 might be that indicator. On LA’s side, their crazy power play numbers qualify as “ripe for regression.”