Ramblings: Flyers and Canucks Advance, Flames Goaltending, Gustafsson, and Gaudreau (Aug 22)
With all of the conference quarterfinal series now wrapped up, we now have our conference semifinal playoff matchups set.
Philadelphia vs. NY Islanders
Tampa Bay vs. Boston
Vegas vs. Vancouver
Colorado vs. Dallas
Look for our Round 2 Expert Panel playoff picks coming up later this weekend. They may be posted after Game 1 of the Colorado/Dallas series, which starts today (Saturday) but not long after. So yes, no break from the hockey after all.
Philadelphia 3, Montreal 2 (Philadelphia wins series 4-2)
The Habs probably deserved a better fate in Game 6, as they doubled the Flyers in both shots on goal (33-17) and shot attempts (71-35). Regardless, they had a great run for a team that entered the play-in tournament as a #12 seed. And perhaps the future looks brighter in Montreal than it did before this play-in tournament started.
Even though the Flyers will be moving on, they have had their fill of Nick Suzuki. The rookie center scored both Canadiens goals, which gives him multiple points in back-to-back games. Suzuki also led the Habs with six shots in this game. He finishes the playoffs with seven points in ten games – one of my better playoff pool performers in spite of his late-round pick. Seeing him improve as he has been gaining more NHL experience, there's real potential for him to grow on his 41-point rookie season.
Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia assisted on both of Suzuki's goals. Drouin takes a lot of criticism for injuries and unfulfilled promise, but he actually tied Suzuki for the team scoring lead in the playoffs. There was some good chemistry here, so the Habs might be wise to keep these two together next season. Check out the thread-the-needle pass from Drouin to Suzuki on the second goal.
For the Flyers, Ivan Provorov opened the scoring just 28 seconds into the game, then Kevin Hayes scored his first goal of the playoffs to make it 2-0. Michael Raffl scored the eventual game-winner for the Flyers.
Carter Hart stopped 31 of 33 shots he faced to earn the W. Six of his eight starts in this postseason have been quality starts.
Carey Price clearly didn't have his best start, allowing three goals on 17 shots. This was his first "really bad start" of the postseason. You can view Really Bad Starts (RBS) data for each goalie over at Frozen Tools. In spite of that outing, Price has posted a sub-2.00 GAA in four consecutive postseasons. This postseason has reminded us that he can still be a dominant goalie.
Vancouver 6, St. Louis 2 (Vancouver wins series 4-2)
The Canucks held a modest 1-0 lead after the first period. It was the second period, however, when they really gave St. Louis the blues, scoring three goals within the first eight minutes. That chased Jordan Binnington from the net once and for all. Jake Allen, who should have been given the nod instead since he hadn't played that badly, took over at that point. Yet the damage was done by then. No more Gloria, and no more Winnington. And no drunken Brett Hull again either.
This is a perfect example of an element of the Canucks' game that was simply too much for the Blues to handle. Outstanding call from Chris Cuthbert, too.
It's such a thing of beauty, I'll give you another angle.
With two assists, Elias Pettersson is now tied with Nathan MacKinnon for the lead in playoff scoring with 13 points. The Blues usually don't give players like Pettersson much room to work, but he recorded four multiple-point games in this series and finished with nine points.
Brock Boeser had struggled mightily in this series, but he was able to score the Canucks' fourth goal, a power-play marker. Boeser had not scored a goal in his previous six games, so this will give him some much-needed confidence heading into the series with Vegas.
If you're looking for a John Druce or a Chris Kontos of this year's playoffs (or if you're a little younger, a Fernando Pisani), Tyler Motte might be your guy. With two third-period goals, Motte has now scored two goals in back-to-back games. He won't and shouldn't be in any playoff pools, but his game is all hard work and energy. Motte was also a plus-3 and fired five shots on goal.
Not known as a scorer either, Brandon Sutter chipped in three assists, giving him points in back-to-back games.
Jacob Markstrom had another stellar performance, stopping 34 of 36 shots. If you're measuring quality starts, Marky has failed to record one just once in ten postseason starts. His UFA stock continues to rise, and will rise even further if the Canucks can make a really deep run. The best description I've heard of Markstrom's contract situation: The best fit might be Vancouver, but the best money might be elsewhere.
For fantasy owners looking for one last contribution from the Blues, Jaden Schwartz scored both St. Louis goals. His 2019 postseason was a much more memorable one, as you may remember he scored 12 goals. This season: four goals (with no assists).
I wrote more about the Blues in yesterday's Ramblings.
How many of these players do you have in your playoff pool?
Five years ago, it seemed like the Calgary Flames were on the fast track to being one of NHL's top teams. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and who could forget 18-year-old Sam Bennett. Now it's hard to say what they are. They're a cautionary tale about assuming that a young team with a bit of success will only grow and get better. The Leafs are another example, if you consider lack of playoff success. Folks seem to be talking about the Canucks this way right now, although I can tell you that the playoffs are not guaranteed for them next season.
Given all the teams that "should" win the Stanley Cup in the next five years, it's a trophy that's as hard as hell to win. If it were easy, then Canadian-based teams wouldn't collectively have a 25+ year drought on the trophy.
Getting back to the Flames, I could see them breaking the bank for a goalie. They could easily be one of the teams in the running for Braden Holtby, who is from Alberta/Saskatchewan border town Lloydminster. Yet in spite of the Game 6 debacle, Cam Talbot might have earned himself another one-year contract after posting seven quality starts in ten postseason games. Maybe the Flames think they'll be okay with the Talbot/David Rittich combo for another season. Who knows.
The Flames could instead be thinking about a larger shakeup, like trading Gaudreau. Johnny Hockey has a three-year average of 1.04 PTS/GP in the regular season, but a much lower 0.53 PTS/GP in the playoffs over that span. He managed to increase that playoff total this season (10 GP, 4G-3A-7PTS), but that won't cool off the rumor mill. None of those points came at even strength. Six of the points were on the power play, while the other was on an empty-net goal. The increased emphasis on defense and tight-checking play in the playoffs hinders Gaudreau, as he doesn't receive the space to move around. That lack of playoff production will be a dent on his trade value.
While he has been in Calgary, Erik Gustafsson took over the first-unit power play from Mark Giordano. In a combined 17 regular-season and playoff games with the Flames, Gustafsson recorded two power-play points. The power play wasn't necessarily the Flames' undoing, as they finished the postseason with a 28% power-play success rate (currently third in the NHL). So even if the power-play production isn't there, the power play seems to work with Gustafsson there. Based on a drop in production from a breakout 2018-19, he may not be that expensive for the Flames to re-sign.
For more fantasy hockey talk, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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