Second round thoughts

The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is over, and we are now down to hockey’s final four; the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning will do battle in the East, while the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will face each other in the West.

Before we move on to the third round of the postseason, however, it’s time to look back on the events of the second round. Here’s a quick breakdown of some storylines from each team, presented to you as bullet points. Enjoy!

Dallas Stars

  • The Dallas Stars may have lost to the St. Louis Blues, but they played fairly well for a team that was missing one of its best two players. If Tyler Seguin had been healthy, the final outcome might have different; Seguin was easily one of the best forwards in the league during the regular season, and there’s no doubt that his absence from the lineup hurt the Stars’ chances.
  • The Stars may have pushed the Blues to seven games, and might have even won the series if Tyler Seguin was healthy, but Dallas finished the series with a minus-11 goal differential. Every loss but one was a total blowout, and each loss showed that Jim Nill really needs to address his goaltending problem; both Kari Lehtonen and Antii Niemi finished the postseason with save percentages below .900%.

St. Louis Blues

  • Colton Parayko has shown he’s likely going to be a star on St. Louis’ backend for a long time, but fellow rookie Robby Fabbri shouldn’t be overlooked. Fabbri had 37 points in 72 games during the regular season, and has 13 points in 14 playoff games. Combine that production with positive puck possession metrics, and Fabbri, who is only 20-years-old, projects as a key piece of the Blues moving forward.
  • Robby Fabbri had 45 goals and 42 assists for a total of 87 points in 58 games during his draft year, and was projected as a top-ten pick by some scouts. He fell to 21st overall because of his size, and though there’s still plenty of time left for players taken in that draft to develop, I’d be willing to bet that a couple of general managers who passed over Fabbri want a do-over.

Nashville Predators

  • The Nashville Predators were a good team that never really stood out in any aspect, which led to their eventual doom. Among Western Conference teams, they were a good-but-not-great puck possession team, ranking 4th in score adjusted Corsi For percentage. They had a below average goaltender, who finished the year with a .908 save percentage. Their power play and penalty kill ranked 10th and 16th, respectively, and they had a positive penalty differential, but not one that really was noticeable. This was a good team, for sure, but not one that ever really had a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. (Basically, I still think that trading Seth Jones away was a really bad idea).
  • Speaking of Pekka Rinne, the Finnish net minder finished the postseason with a .906 save percentage. He’s signed through the 2018-2019 season, and carries a 7 million dollar cap hit.

San Jose Sharks 

  • The San Jose Sharks have a really good power play, and they usually win the penalty differential battle. As a result, they usually out-score their opposition on special teams. The final tally in their series against the Predators was 8-3, meaning that the Sharks had a FIVE goal boost from their special teams in just seven games. It’s safe to say that the power play and penalty kill were the difference in the series.
  • Joe Pavelski has nine goals and four assists in 12 games this postseason. Joe Thornton has assisted on six of those goals, and it’s interesting to think about where Pavelski would be without Thornton. From 2007-2016, the duo played almost 4000 minutes together, and 5000+ minutes apart. Take a look at their WOWY, courtesy of puckalytics.com.

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Pavelski’s Goals For per 60 rate is almost an entire goal less when he plays without Thornton, and his on ice shooting percentage drops from 9.13 percent to 6.79 percent. It’s obvious that the duo has some type of chemistry (their “with” numbers are almost all better than their “without” numbers), and it’s also obvious that Joe Thornton is just really good.

New York Islanders

  • Against the Florida Panthers, the Islanders had 21 power plays and were only shorthanded 15 times. They outscored the Cats 5-2 on special teams. Against the Lightning, they had 18 power plays, but were shorthanded 19 times. They still outscored the Lightning on special teams, 4-3, but the difference was too small to have as big of an impact on the series.
  • Thomas Greiss had a .944 save percentage against the Panthers, and a .879 save percentage against the Lightning. Please excuse me, the poor Floridian Boy, while I go curse the hockey gods for conspiring against my beloved Cats.

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning have done very well without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman in the lineup, but they’ve also played two of the three weakest playoff teams; the Detroit Red Wings just weren’t good, and the New York Islanders had no right being in the second round. Keep that in mind when discussing Stamkos’ upcoming contract negotiations.
  • Everyone remember the Jonathan Drouin situation? The one where he demanded a trade and refused to report to the AHL because he felt that he deserved a chance to prove himself in the NHL? Kind of hard to forget it. As it turns out, all of the fancy stats that suggested he was deserving of NHL time were most likely right, and the youngster has nine points in 10 playoff games. He’s still got quite a ways to go before establishing himself as a star player, but maybe the “stat-heads” knew what they were talking about? Just a thought.

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • The depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins this year is scary. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for one goal and three assists in the entire series, and the Penguins still won in six games. Yeesh.
  • A list of players who did really well against Washington: Phil Kessel (6 PTS in 6 GP), Matt Murray (.926 SV%), Nick Bonino (5 PTS in 6 GP), and Carl Hagelin (5 PTS in 6 GP). None of those guys are Pittsburgh’s typical big guns, and Matt Murray is only 21-years-old. Things are looking good for the Penguins, not just this season, but also the next couple of seasons.

Washington Capitals

  • The Washington Capitals may have lost in the second round of the playoffs, but they lost to the best team in the playoffs. It’s kind of hard to call this loss a “choke”, especially since the Capitals were the second best postseason team according to my model. If they would have won this series against the Penguins, they would be the new Cup favorites. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.
  • There’s a lot to like about the Washington Capitals, but one thing they probably need to address is their defense. Matt Niskanen led all defensemen in 5v5 ice time per game during the postseason, and Brooks Orpik was third. Niskanen is a good player, but he’s no Kris Letang/Victor Hedman, and Brook Orpik is just flat out bad. If the Capitals are going to improve during the offseason, it’s going to be on the back end.

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