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As the regular season winds down, Sunday is sadly the final day of regular season NHL hockey, the playoff picture was thrown into stark relief on Saturday night.
We now know what the Eastern half of the playoff tree looks like, at least. And it looks legitimately tantalizing: Flyers vs. Rangers, Detroit vs. Boston, Columbus vs. Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay vs. Montreal. I mean, how good is that?
Out West there are still a few things to be decided, like whether or not the Colorado Avalanche can win Division III and avoid Chicago, but we now know the matchup in two of the first round series’ thanks to Anaheim clinching the best regular season record in the conference last night.
The Ducks will play the Dallas Stars in round one, as the Stars become the first post-realignment team to win the Wild Card and as a result be forced to swap divisions, and what a series that could be. Both Dallas and Anaheim have excellent forward groups, questionable defense, and stellar goaltending – which is usually a highly entertaining combination…
In the early game on Saturday, the Boston Bruins man-handled the Buffalo Sabres and sealed up the Presidents’ Trophy. The Presidents’ Trophy, which used to be the much more respectable Prince of Wales Trophy before expansion, is the Rodney Dangerfield of NHL awards – it can’t get any respect. No Bruins fan celebrated the President’s Trophy win on Saturday night, and no one will ever refer to this team as something like “Leauge Champions” unless they win four more playoff rounds…
I for one still think the Presidents’ Trophy is a vastly under-rated accomplishment, and that being the best team in the NHL for nearly seven months should be celebrated. Of course, because no one really agrees with me, the Bruins will look to avoid becoming the third Presidents’ Trophy winner in the past five years to bowout in round one…
Patrice Bergeron – 30 goal scorer – left Saturday’s matinee with an undisclosed injury, no injuries are disclosed at this time of year frankly, that was later deemed to be not serious.
I was looking over some of Bergeron’s with or without you (WOWY) numbers the other day, and they were like looking at #fancystat porn. The Bruins two-way ace moves the puck possession needle to an absurd degree, and has roughly a 3-4% impact on the shot attempt differential of every skater he’s spent more than 200 EV minutes playing with since 2008 (except Aaron Ward, for some reason). This season that impact seems to be closer to 10%.
One key thing I was surprised to see looking at Bergeron’s WOWYs, and will have to look harder for when I watch Bruins games going forward, is the extent to which Brad Marchand appears to be reliant on Bergeron to control play.
In nearly 1000 even-strength minutes apart from Bergeron since Marchand joined the league, the Bruins have been out-attempted (or Corsi’d) and have barely outscored their opponents. But put Marchand and Bergeron together and suddenly they’re controlling nearly 60% of shot attempts and outscoring their opponents two-to-one.
I was surprised to see the unflattering picture the numbers paint of Marchand – and I’d mention that it’s not entirely bleak, it’s not as if Bergeron doesn’t also see his effectiveness spike with Marchand around. It’s particularly surprising because if you watch a lot of Bruins games, you’ll notice how reliant that line is on Marchand to carry the puck in the neutral zone and establish possession. Certainly I’ve never thought of him as a passenger.
But where Bergeron has only been an excellent two-way player