March 30th, 2014

Dobber Sports

2014-03-30

The NHL’s stretch run is winding down and we’re beginning to have a better idea of which teams will still be alive for the first round.

 

We know now, for example, that the Toronto Maple Leafs almost certainly won’t make it, and that the Detroit Red Wings very probably will. That particular hockey night in Canada game, which the Red Wings won 4-2 on the strength of a dominant second period, was about as “high-leverage” as it gets. With the regulation victory, Detroit improved their playoff hopes by 18.4%. Toronto’s hopes fell off a cliff meanwhile, to the tune of 13.3% with the loss per sportsclubstats.com.

 

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Darren Helm managed a hat-trick for the Red Wings in the game, the first of his career, while Gustav ‘Goose’ Nyquist potted another goal (obviously). Nyquist was waiver wire fodder in my league early on in the season and was recycled a couple of times by several different owners (myself included). But he’s gone off over the past six weeks, and over the past two weeks in particular – this week he managed another three goals, and an assist while contributing a +2 rating and nine shots on goal.

 

Ultimately there’s an argument to be made that Nyquist might be the single most valuable player of the fantasy playoff so far…

 

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The sheer number of times I’ve ranted about the Leafs in this space – their woeful puck possession game their unsustainable reliance on favorable percentages – should probably give you a good idea of what I think about their recent collapse.

 

Admittedly, I didn’t see a late run of poor play this bad coming down the pipeline but I’ve known all season that this team wasn’t particularly good and had overcome their overall lack of quality for much of the year thanks to smoke and mirrors and some tremendous performances from top-line forwards like Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, and Vezina quality goaltending from Jonathan Bernier.

 

Ultimately their shell game has bit them in the posterior down the stretch, and it didn’t help that Jonathan Bernier isn’t himself following a groin injury (and I might suggest to you that James Reimer isn’t himself since he got kicked in the head by a Kings forward in the same game in which Bernier was injured). When you need elite goaltending to be just “bad” defensively (as opposed to historically bad), your goose is pretty cooked.

 

There are teams that can overcome a tough run of goaltending luck by controlling games – see Chicago or St. Louis – but the Leafs aren’t one of them. Not even close. Without the play of their top-line and netminder, they’d have been in the running for a top-five pick. Now that their goaltending has fallen off, they look like a bottom feeding team…

Basically the Leafs have been exposed the past couple of weeks…

 

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While Leafs fans are pretty depressed about the state of their team at this point, at least Morgan Rielly is the real deal. What a play by the young defender to set up Joffrey Lupul in a losing effort last night, my god.

 

Also good news for the Maple Leafs: star forward Kessel went and got x-rays postgame, but seems to be okay

 

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The Boston Bruins manhandled the Washington Capitals 4-2 in matinee action on Saturday, with Jarome Iginla adding another two goals to push him to 30 on the year. Pretty amazing totals for a player as wizened as the former long-time Calgary Flames captain.

 

Iginla landed in an excellent situation in Boston, and has taken full advantage of it. He’s not the play drivin