Friday, May 27, 2011

Krejci's Trick, Kaberle, Faceoffs and Game 7 Predictions

A quick glance at the Bruins’ stat lines heading into game seven and one number shocked me – 35:33 – which denotes the production value of one Tomas Kaberle, leading all Bruins defenseman. Now, before you demand my head be set on a pike and my limbs be sent to the four corners of the empire, I’m not suggesting he’s played like the Kaberle we thought we were getting when we sent Colborne and picks to Brian Burke in February. I am suggesting that since his points per time on ice is better than any postseason defenseman with more than six points not named Lindstrom, Boyle or Ehrhoff, we should probably reconsider all of these “Bench Kaberle” ideas. The guy has the fifth-highest plus/minus rating among playoff D-men while being tied with David Krejci for (the admittedly meager) team lead in powerplay points….Again, not saying we should resign him (we shouldn’t unless the price is waaaay right), just ease off the calls for Kampfer, k?

David Krejci’s hat trick Wednesday in Tampa was the first hat trick recorded by a Boston Bruin in over twenty years. On April 5, 1991 Cam Neely scored in triplicate in game two of the 1991 Adams Division Semifinals versus the Hartford Whalers.

In between the two hat tricks was a span of 142 B’s playoff games without a player registering three in the goal column, a considerable drought. Krejci’s hat trick was also significant in that it was only the third hat-trick this season where the team with the player scoring three lost in regulation. The record of teams with a hat-trick this season was 73-3-2. Krejci also has reached the distinction of being the first Bruin to put up double figures in goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Neely had 16 back in that 1991 season. If DK manages to keep up this pace and the Bruins reach the finals, he could be the first Bruin to lead the postseason in goal scoring since the incomparable Bobby Schmautz put up eleven (to go with one lonely assist) to lead the NHL in postseason G’s in 1977.

Patrice Bergeron’s bad night in the faceoff dot (9 out of 19) on Wednesday dropped his faceoff percentage down to 62.1%. He leads every other faceoff taker still alive in the playoffs by at least five percent. The Bruins need that faceoff edge to maximize their possession-play game plan, and given Bergy’s ability on the draw, he’s got to come through big for the B’s for them to win game seven. In the B’s six losses this postseason, they’ve been beaten at the dot four times. When the Bruins win the faceoff battles with greater frequency than their opponents, they’ve won seven out of nine.

Who needs to step up in game seven?

For Tampa: Ryan Malone- He’s an emotional and physical leader of this club who hasn’t produced at his expected level this postseason (3-3-6). He certainly has it in him – he put up 16 points in the 07-08 postseason – but he must show more focus than the player who leads the playoffs in minor penalties. Malone can be a force when he’s playing smart, and getting him going will only further activate his talented linemates: Stamkos and St. Louis.

For Boston: Tim Thomas – I struggled with this choice, (Lucic and Recchi were my other candidates) but decided in the end to back the man who I called the unequivocally better goaltender in my preview of the B’s-Bolts series. If he doesn’t play like the best goaltender on the planet, the Bruins don’t make it past the Canadiens in round one and they certainly don’t sweep the Flyers in round two. Because the B’s play a more deliberate, patient style of play and lack the top-end offensive talent Tampa possesses, they need their goaltender to be better than good; they need him to be superhuman. If Thomas is anything less than the spectacular goalie we saw so much of this year, expect to see Vincent Lecavalier and not Big Z, politely refuse to hoist the Prince of Wales Trophy in Boston tonight.

Prediction time:

The last time the Bruins won a playoff series in seven games from a team other than Les Habitants was 1992, when the B’s outlasted the Buffalo Sabres. Don’t expect a low-scoring affair, as both teams offenses have ruled the day in this series – combining for an impressive 41 goals split nearly evenly (20 for Boston and 21 for Tampa) – and neither goaltender expected to start has been especially brilliant in recent play. If the game is a track meet, the odds favor Tampa, so expect the Bruins to try and keep the pace deliberate through two periods. The third will be a race to the buzzer, but don’t expect overtime—the battle will be won within 60. In the end, the Bruins will hold off a late frenzied push from Tampa for a 4-3 victory and a date with Vancouver.

Three Stars of Game Seven:

3. St. Louis (3 assists)

2. Seguin (1G, 1A)

1. Lucic (2 goals)

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