A few rambling Saturday night thoughts to hold you over until the game on Sunday afternoon:
See the Stanley Cup Final schedule yet? Probably but let's indulge and look at it
Confirmed #StanleyCup Final Dates— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 20, 2017
Game 1: May 29
Game 2: May 31
Game 3: June 3
Game 4: June 5
Game 5: June 8
Game 6: June 11
Game 7: June 14
The crazy thing is the maximum length of the Conference Finals is 12 days (May 13-25 in the east). The SCF? 17 days from start to finish if it goes the distance. Wow.
Lots of time to rest, especially after Game 2 where there could be the last 5 games of the season in a 14 day lag. On one hand, great for rest (and potential cross-country travel) and also for NBC. On the other hand, let's keep it moving.
Also, no June 12th game. 6/12 is when Max Talbot (and Marc-Andre Fleury) became legends in 2009, and also when Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang pushed the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2016. If the Pens are to win the Cup this year, for the first time in the Crosby/Malkin/Fleury era it won't be on 6/12.....Unless Anaheim makes it, Game 6 would be out there and maybe with an OT it would technically be June 12th on the east coast by the time that game ends...Just sayin.
Sidney Crosby, y'all.
As we calculated, on 139 career playoff games, that's a 38% chance on any given game Sid is going to be on the scoresheet twice. In this day and age of the post-lockout NHL with tight checking, good coaching/defense and better goalies, that's really incredible.
The hot topic of the day for screaming heads on what's left of TV is to debate and quickly name a "GOAT", an acronym for the greatest of all time. With Howe, Orr, Gretzky and Lemieux with all their impressive resumes, Sid can't match that in sheer numbers or stats in eras he didn't compete in.
But for Crosby's time from 2005-now in the salary cap era, he's really, really making the case to be the top dog. Consider his highest profile peers, sorted by the highest number of multi-point games in the NHL playoffs.
|Player||Games||Points||Multi-point games||% of MP games|
We included Connor McDavid not to embarrass him, but since he's rightfully acknowledged to be "next, next, next one" he's in this mix. And, in his playoff debut, he was very good, however he didn't score multi-point games that much this spring. Probably soon.
Also, Jonathan Toews' "leadership" doesn't mean many multi-point games, he's behind the narrative-choker Alex Ovechkin here. Ovechkin is actually a really great playoff performer overall if you look at points/game. He's failed in key moments and late in series to rise to the occasion and has defensive gaffes but the media-driven narratives of which players are "clutch" isn't always about who is scoring.
Not sure if he gets enough press out East, but Ryan Getzlaf is a total playoff stud and has been for several years. That's something to keep in mind for sure if the Ducks make the Finals.
Evgeni Malkin, as seemingly always, is in the shadow. If it weren't for Sid, he would get a lot more press and attention.
That said, Crosby's impressiveness over his peers shouldn't be overlooked or denied. It's not really any question but the chart above just is further evidence he's been the best player in the league since he's entered it, and his place among the all-time greats is really starting to come into focus. With all due respect to the players who have played since the heyday of Lemieux, there's really no doubt that Crosby is the best player in at least the past 20 years.
(Also, big shout-out to hockey-reference for their easy to use layout to drill down to these stats)
The Penguins are used to dealing with injuries but the concussion to Chad Ruhwedel is pretty tough. With Kris Letang out all playoffs and Justin Schultz knocked out too, the Pens have no more right-handed defensemen. Worse, their depth is tested.
So where do they turn?
Mark Streit looked old and painfully slow in Game 3. The one and only game he's played in weeks. Do the Pens hitch their wagon to him and hope he can give 10-12 sheltered minutes and keep it moving? Seems like a big ask from what we saw earlier in the week.
Derrick Pouliot would be the other choice. He hasn't performed well in the Mike Sullivan era in the NHL and the coaches seem to not like him. But he's got the tools. Will the Pens give him a chance? He's made some bad mistakes that have ended up in the net, but he's got young legs, good skating and passing ability.
Just as the choice between Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury seemed like a classic "win-win" of 2 good players, in good form the choice of the last defenseman for Game 5 seems like a lose-lose. Neither can have much confidence. Neither had played much. Unless Schultz can hulk up and make a return, the Penguins already depleted blue line looks really, really bad with how Sullivan is likely to use Streit or Pouliot as a 6D.
Last game Olli Maatta was terrific (and not just because he scored his first playoff goal). Ditto Brian Dumoulin. Ditto Trevor Daley. Add in Ian Cole and Ron Hainsey and there's no doubt that Pittsburgh will be leaning on those 5 guys very, very heavily no matter what the other decision is to round out the lineup. Can they perform, hold the fort and give a great performance under high pressure and a lot of minutes? Well, that remains to be seen.
Tomorrow, by the way, Evgeni Malkin will get to #1 overall in Penguins history in one category, as he pointed out on twitter (with some sunglasses for effect)
Malkin takes over the franchise lead with 141 career playoff games. For a franchise so stacked with playoff history , it's tough to get a franchise record for anything, but Malkin's earned this one, taking a lot of abuse and pulling more than his weight along the way. Atta boy, Gene. Wanna celebrate this record in style? ))))))))))))))