Don’t Worry…At Least Not Yet

The Penguins had a 3-1 series lead over the President Trophy winners.

They had a 3-1 lead against a goalie who will likely win the Vezina Trophy as best NHL goaltender, Braden Holtby.

They had a 3-1 lead against a Capitals team with stellar offensive power and a strong defense.

holtby

It was only a matter of time before the Capitals found their game, as the they went on to beat the Penguins 3-1 in Washington DC in game 5, trimming the Penguins’ series lead to 3-2 and forcing game 6 Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.

Throughout Twitter, word of mouth, text messages, the radio, and other forms of media, I seem to be getting 2 different vibes about this Penguins team: one side of the spectrum believes that the Penguins will respond well in game 6 at home and finish of the Capitals.  The other side of the spectrum is saying, “Oh no, here comes a repeat of 2011 and 2014: blowing that 3-1 series lead..”

To those of you that truly believe the Penguins will win game 6, I’m glad you believe in this hockey team.  For those of you on the other side of the spectrum, aka the “Pens are gonna blow a 3-1 series lead again” side, I simply say don’t worry…at least not yet.

First of all, the Penguins just lost 1 game.  They didn’t lose the series.  The have a chance to win at home, and even if they fail to do that, they could still win game 7 in Washington…which they did en route to a Stanley Cup in 2009.

Although the Penguins did have a chance to finish off the President’s Trophy winner Washington Capitals, did anyone (not Penguins fans alone) think that the Pens would even win this series? It seemed to me that many analysts were picking the Capitals in this series.  So, in that fact alone, the fact that the Penguins are even up 3-2 in this series thus far is still pretty incredible.

Finally, although the Penguins had a 3-1 series lead, which is now a 3-2 series lead, it really did not feel that way going into game 5.  Going into game 5, every game was decided be a goal excluding game 2 (which was a 2 goal win by the Penguins due to a late empty net goal by Letang), which included 2 games, game 1 and game 4, both decided in overtime.  The Caps won game 1 on an OT winner by TJ Oshie, capping off a hat trick, and the Pens won game 4 on a goal from Patric Hornqvist.  It also includes a game 3 where the Capitals probably deserved to win and played much better hockey than the Pens, but Matt Murray simply stood on his head while making 47 saves, the most ever by a rookie goaltender in a playoff win.

Say the Capitals win game 3 without Murray’s heroics, and say they score the winning goal in OT in game 4.  All of a sudden, Washington just won this series tonight 4-1.  Crazy, huh?

My point I want to make is that this series has been way closer than it appears.  Heck, the Capitals win game 5 while being outshot 32-22 by the Penguins.  Holtby played his best game of the series, their power play came through large by scoring 2 goals, and Murray played just alright.  The Penguins did not play a terrible hockey game.  They just didn’t get the result they wanted.

So I say once again, don’t worry just yet.  The Penguins can still close this out at home.  If they don’t…then we can start worrying.  But remember, it’s not over ’til it’s over.

Some quick observations about game 5…

  • Patric Hornqvist, a player that everyone on the team loves including Sullivan, played only 10:36 of ice time in game 5.  Only Fehr (10:13) and Kuhnhackl (8:09) had less ice time.  It did not appear Hornqvist was ever injured, but he did not see his normal ice time in this game. Something to keep note of going forward.
  • The Penguins need to neutralize Ovi.  He had the opening tally tonight, and his first via his classic one-time slap shot on the power play.  He has had one too many open chances in this series, and it was about time he buried one.  He is starting to feel it, and the Pens need to shut him down before he really gets hot.
  • Crosby and Malkin need to step up.  I know there is more to it than just putting points up, but these 2 guys need to do what they’re paid to do.  The other guys have been picking up the slack, but its about time one of them has a big game.  Game 6 would be preferable.  It won’t be easy, however, as the Caps get probably their most physical defensemen Brooks Orpik back for game 6 after serving his 3 game suspension for his hit on Olli Maatta.
  • The Penguins power play needs to just shoot the puck.  The one goal they had tonight was because their power play was moving and kept Washinton’s defense scrambling by getting the puck to the net.  Kunitz jammed in the rebound.  They seem to be looking for the perfect chance, but that just can’t happen every time.  Fire the puck quickly on goal, good things will come.  This needs to be addressed. Also, noted, the pens despite terrific zone time didn’t register a shot after pulling Murray with 3 minutes to go.  Let that sink in.
  • I felt as though there were 2 very large moments in this game that really put it away for the Capitals.  First was the goal by Williams, which resulted after a clear from Dumoulin fell right on his stick, and he made no mistake with it and curried it 5-hole on Murray giving the Caps a 3-1 edge.  Then after the Pens went down 3-1, Justin Schultz had a miraculous chance in a 4 on 2 rush for the Pens, but Holtby made an unbelievable stop.  It really felt like the game was over right there and then.
  • The Penguins should stick with Murray for the rest of this series.  Even if they lose game 6, I would not even consider putting in a cold Marc-Andre Fleury in for a game that means that much, even though he is your franchise goaltender.  Let the kid that got you there play this one out.  He deserves to finish what he started.  If they advance, we can discuss who starts from there on out.
  • Oh yeah, almost forgot. Pens in 6.

 

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Don’t Worry…At Least Not Yet

Eastern Conference Playoff Probabilities

2016 playoffs.gifAs some of you may know, I love statistics.  Although I could easily just wait 2 days to see what the playoff match-ups will be in the Eastern Conference, I wanted to do a little probability calculating to see what the probability was of certain teams making the playoffs, and what match-ups are most likely to see.

As of right now, the Panthers and Lightning have clinched 1st and 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, respectively, and the Capitals and Penguins have clinched 1st and 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division, respectively.  Although both of the Rangers and Islanders have at least solidified a playoff spot, where they place is not yet determined.

The 3 remaining teams in playoff contention are the Bruins, Red Wings, and Flyers.  Here are the probabilities of each of these teams making the playoffs:

P(Bruins making playoffs) = 60.6%

P(Red Wings making playoffs) = 84.7%

P(Flyers making playoffs) = 54.6%

If the Bruins make the playoffs, they could finish as a 3rd seed in the Atlantic, as the 2nd wild card team, or they could miss the playoffs.  It is slightly more likely that if the Bruins do make the playoffs, they will end up as a wild card.  Here are the probabilities that they place 3rd in the Atlantic, end up in the 2nd wild card spot, and miss the playoffs:

P(Bruins 3rd in Atlantic) = 25%

P(Bruins 2nd wild card) = 35.6%

P(Bruins miss playoffs) = 39.4%

If the Red Wings make the playoffs, they could also finish as a 3rd seed in the Atlantic Division, as the 2nd wild card team, or they could miss the playoffs.  If the Red Wings do make the playoffs, it is far more likely that they would place 3rd in their division as opposed to being the 2nd wild card, as represented by the following probabilities:

P(Red Wings 3rd in Atlantic) = 75%

P(Red Wings 2nd wild card) = 9.7%

P(Red Wings miss playoffs) = 15.3%

If the Flyers make the playoffs, they cannot finish any higher than the 2nd wild card spot, and so their probabilities of finishing either as a 2nd wild card or out of the playoffs is:

P(Flyers 2nd wild card) = 54.6%

P(Flyers miss playoffs) = 45.4%

As you may recall, both the Islanders and Rangers have clinched a playoff birth, however, where they finish in the standings is not yet determined.  One of these teams will finish 3rd in the division and play the Penguins in the first round.  The other team will finish as the 1st wild card, and will hop over to the Atlantic Division to play Florida in the first round.  As of today, the most likely opponent for the Penguins is the Islanders, as seen in the probabilities below:

P(Rangers 3rd in Metropolitan) = 31.9%

P(Rangers 1st wild card) = 68.1%

P(Islanders 3rd in Metropolitan) = 68.1%

P(Islanders 1st wild card) = 31.9%

Based on all of this information, here are all of the possible playoff match-ups from most likely to least likely, along with their probabilities:

There is a 32.4% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. BOS

PIT v. NYI

FLA v. NYR

TBL v. DET

There is a 25% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. PHI

PIT v. NYI

FLA v. NYR

TBL v. DET

There is a 14.4% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. PHI

PIT v. NYR

FLA v. NYI

TBL v. DET

There is a 11.6% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. PHI

PIT v. NYR

FLA v. NYI

TBL v. BOS

There is a 6.9% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. DET

PIT v. NYI

FLA v. NYR

TBL v. BOS

There is a 3.7% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. PHI

PIT v. NYI

FLA v. NYR

TBL v. BOS

There is a 3.2% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. BOS

PIT v. NYR

FLA v. NYI

TBL v. DET

There is a 2.8% chance that the playoff match-ups are:

WSH v. DET

PIT v. NYR

FLA v. NYI

TBL v. BOS

I would like to note that I calculated all of these probabilities myself.  I only say that because I am sure I made a few errors somewhere in my calculations, but I can guarantee that these probabilities are generally correct (and hopefully most are 100% accurate).

Now, we wait 2 days and see what happens….

Eastern Conference Playoff Probabilities

NL Central VS the Metropolitan Division

This article is going to change things up a bit.

It’s not only going to analyze the Penguins, but it’s going to analyze the entire division: the Metropolitan Division.

How good can the Metropolitan Division be this year?  My answer: it’s going to be really good.  Scary good.  I think it will be NL Central-esque.

Let’s talk about the NL Central really quick for those of you that are not familiar with baseball.  The NL Central, like the other divisions in baseball, contains 5 teams.  Now, what is interesting about this division, which include Pittsburgh’s team, the Pirates, is that it includes the best 3 teams in the MLB.  Not in just in the division, not just in the National League, but in the entire MLB.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the division winning 100 games, the Pirates came in at 2nd with a franchise-tying record 98 wins, and the Cubs were nipping at the Pirates heels ending with 97 wins.  The Cubs, who came in 3rd place in the NL Central division, would have placed first in any other division in the MLB.

Currently, the NL Central has been talked about as one of the best divisions in MLB history, and with pretty good reasoning too.

So, why am I talking about baseball on a Penguins blog?!  Well, because I think the Metropolitan Division may just be the NL Central of the NHL.  There are just too many great teams.  Let’s take a look at the teams in the Metropolitan Division:

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have, arguably, the strongest offense on paper in the NHL.  They are rolling with 4 lines that can score, which is not a very common scheme in the NHL.  But hey, when you have Crosby and Malkin on your team (and now Kessel for that matter), you may as well build a team that’s meant to score goals.  The Penguins should be a huge threat offensively, and could very well win the division this year.

New York Islanders: The Islanders aren’t a joke any more.  A few years ago, the Penguins would play the Islanders and the biggest question was “how many goals are the Penguins going to score?”  Well, not any more.  This Islanders team is dangerous.  They are moving into a new arena, which will provide some sort of “hype” for this team.  They finished last year 3rd in the division and finished tied for 3rd in the NHL with 252 goals.  They will be looking for a division title this season to put in the rafters of the Barclays Center.

New York Rangers: So yeah, the Rangers lost Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin,and maybe a few other guys.  But this team won the President’s trophy last year, and finished 3rd in the NHL in goals for and goals against.  They have tons of speed on offense, and arguably one of the best defensive lineups in the NHL.  And, well, future hall-of-famer Henrik Lundqvist.  The Rangers could easily take this division once again.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Yeah, yeah.  They didn’t make the playoffs last year.  But keep in mind they were missing top center Ryan Johansen, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and others for significant amount of time.  Towards the end of the season, the Blue Jackets finally got healthy, and they showed the NHL how dangerous they can be.  They ended the season at a just ridiculous 16-2-1 clip, making an improbable push for the playoffs, although they fell just short.  Also, they acquired Brandon Saad in the offseason to bolster the offense.  Look out for CBJ.

Washington Capitals: Personally, I have the Capitals taking the division this year.  Alex Ovechkin will undoubtedly take the Rocket Richard (that is, unless Phil Kessel challenges him for it).  TJ Oshie will be on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin, and he will absolutely benefit from it.  They have a lot of young forwards and defensemen that are primed for great seasons, and a solid goalie in Braden Holtby.  Many think he will be a Vezina candidate (best goalie in the NHL after the regular season), and even though I don’t think Holtby is in the Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist category, he is a great goaltender behind a solid defense.

Now the question becomes: who the heck wins this division?!  Yeah, I have the Caps winning the division, but you could make an argument for really any of these 5 teams in the Metropolitan to win the Division, and I would believe you 100%.

This division could be the NL Central of the NHL.

It is also notable that the Flyers, Hurricanes, and Devils are also in this division.  The Flyers may have a decent season, but they will not finish in the top 5.  The Hurricanes should improve slightly, but they will hardly be noticeable.  And then the Devils, yeah, forget about them.  They have some rebuilding to do.

The way the NHL playoff format is now set up (for those of you unfamiliar with it), is that the top 3 teams of each division make the playoffs.  Looking at just the Eastern Conference, the top 3 teams from the Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division make the playoffs.  Then, there are 2 “wild card” teams.  These teams are the 2 teams that finish with the most points outside of the top 3 teams in each division.  These teams can come from either one division, or both divisions.

Don’e be surprised if the Metropolitan Division sends 5 teams to the playoffs.

Don’t be surprised if these 5 teams are near the top of the entire NHL standings.

Don’t be surprised to see another NL Central.

It could be one of the best divisions in NHL history.

As always, thank you to those who keep up with me!  I appreciate your support, and I’m glad you share my interest for hockey and for the Penguins.

Only 2 articles remain:  Tomorrow I’ll be writing about what went wrong last year, and Wednesday I’ll be writing about a very simple yet important aspect of hockey: shoot the puck!

And just in case you want to get pumped up a bit…

NL Central VS the Metropolitan Division