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 5: Canadiens 7 Rangers 4
1) 3.2% to 46.9%
When the New York Rangers came back from down three goals to to tie up the game at 4-4, their win probability jumped from 3.2% at its lowest point to 46.9% according the extraskater.com. In a series that has had some back-and-forth games, Game 5 was wacky. In football there is a statistic called “Entertainment Index” that judges a game’s excitement level by the peaks and valleys of win probability. This game would have ranked pretty darn high in this post season’s Excitement Index. It doesn’t say much about where the series will go from here, but it was a darn fun hockey game.
Rene Bourque only played 12:21 of ice time in Game 5 – and somehow scored three goals. The 32-year-old forward scored only nine goals in 63 games during the regular season and 16 in 90 games since being acquired by the Montreal Canadiens. Bourque was only on the ice for a total of six shot attempts and four shots on goal. If you’re sensing a theme here about randomness of sports,you’ve caught on that this game was a beautiful example.
While P.K. Subban was on the ice during Game 5, the Canadiens had 17 shot attempts. The next most for any player was 12. Subban finished with an assist, 29.1 ice time (the most on the team by nearly five minutes), four shots on goal and two penalties drawn. Subban’s performances in games 1-4 were very good at times and disappointing at times, but he was not disappointing in Game 5. He played at a Norris Trophy/Conn Smythe level. If the Canadiens have any chance of pulling off the comeback, they’ll need their No. 1 defenseman to play at the Conn Smythe-caliber hockey he did in Game 5.
Rangers’ backup goaltender Cam Talbot allowed two goals on 13 shots in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who was off his game for the first time during the post-season. When the Rangers tied the game, there was some conversation about whether Lundqvist should be brought back in the game. While there is no replacement for the NHL:’s best goaltender, the backup is not some scrub. Talbot was fantastic this season, posting a .941 save percentage. On April 12, Talbot started against the Canadiens and stopped 26 of 27 shots. Was the move to keep him in questionable? Yes. But we’re not talking about some AHL scrub in Talbot.
Yes, the Thomas Vanek watch continues. He did not receive a whole lot of ice time in Game 5, but made the most of it, registering two shots and an assist. Vanek was on the ice for 10 shot attempts for and five against. By no means does this mean that Vanek is 100% again, but it is a positive sign for the Canadiens. To win the ECF, the Habs will have to have everything break their way. When Vanek is at the top of his game, he can be a series-changing type player. Watch his ice time next game.