Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Anaheim’s answer to Spalfredheat—Project Norris

Well, here’s a wrinkle I didn’t expect in G1. I was wondering whether Carlyle would play the Niedermayer-Beauchemin pairing or the Pronger-O'Donnell pairing against the Spezza line, but I really hadn’t considered the option of Niedermayer-Pronger. Not that it’s an irrational play, mind you, but rather it’s just something Carlyle never really toyed with. Each Norris nominee had their own partner and played their own separate even-strength minutes.

Well, cut to G1 vs. Ottawa, where the Senators presented the best one-line attack of these playoffs. Carlyle of course matched the Pahlsson line out against them, but decided to throw a Norris-Norris wrinkle at them as well, something he hadn’t done all season, really.

I'm a big fan of Vic Ferrari’s 5-on-5 head-to-head minutes site (you can read about it here or access it directly here). It looks at NHL shift charts and shows who a player shares his even-strength shifts with—both teammates and opponents. According to the G1 stats, Pronger and Niedermayer played 7.4 even-strength minutes together—which is more shared 5-on-5 time than they had in any of the first three playoff rounds!

Here's how their 5-on-5 total ice time was split in each round of the playoffs (SN = Scott Niedermayer, CP = Chris Pronger):

Opponent

SN Ice TimeCP Ice TimeShared Ice TimePct. SNPct. CP

Minnesota

83.8

83.5

5.0

6.0%

6.0%

Vancouver

88.4

95.0

5.0

5.7%

5.3%

Detroit *

90.2

96.8

7.1

7.9%

7.3%

Ottawa

18.6

17.2

7.4

39.8%

43.0%

* excludes G4 against Detroit (Pronger suspension)

This is really a huge change in strategy to introduce in the Stanley Cup Finals, but sure enough, late in a tied game with the Spezza line out, who’s on the ice for the winning goal? The checking line, backed by Niedermayer and Pronger, a.k.a. Project Norris.

(Graphic originally created as a charitable effort.)

Coach Carlyle took a risk shuffling up his defensemen up for the Stanley Cup Finals, and it's something certainly to follow as this series progresses. Initial returns, though, look good.

Go Ducks.

12 comments:

Showerhead said...

Oiler fans everywhere can join me in chorus: thank you so FREAKING much for giving us Joffrey Lupul and Ladislav Smid for that Pronger guy. And all those shiny picks, just look at them twinkle.

Jerks.

Scott said...

Great observation on the Norris/Norris strategy, and also a nice Game 1 victory for your team. As all fans do in the playoffs when their teams lose, a lot of my fellow Ottawa fans are going to complain that the Sens "just weren't themselves" last night. But when you say that, you fail to take into account what the other team might have done to throw them off their game in the first place. The Ducks were tough 5-on-5 and did what they had to do. I still expect a long series, but first blood is drawn by Anaheim. Nicely done...

MetroGnome said...

Good adjustment by Carlyle. I would expect he won't be doing this in Ottawa when he doesn't have last change. I wonder if Murray will move Alfredsson or Heatley to get them away from the Norris connection next game?

Showerhead said...

Based on Murray's quotes it sounds quite a bit like he simply feels it's on the big line to play better and things will work out in the end. If you look at the big line's shift charts you don't see any of the tiny, intermittent, shift lines that would indicate Ottawa was trying to avoid the matchup and only the occasional double shift. While it's true that if Ottawa wins this series the big line will have to find a way to produce, even against top opposition, you'd have to think Murray would at least TRY a little dodging before it's all said and done.

I think it's a testament to the lineup that Anaheim's got that there's all of Pahlsson, Niedermayer, Moen, Pronger, and Niedermayer that an opposing star player would have to contend with. Ottawa's got a lot of great things going for them as well but Fisher, Phillips, and Volchenkov just don't quite have the same appeal. To repeat myself, if Ottawa wants to win this thing it is going to have to do so on the back of tremendous play by Mr.'s Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza.

DC In YOW said...

Nice game by the Ducks and a well deserved win. Today it's Redden who is getting trashed on Ottawa sports talk radio (not entirely undeserved from my perch on the sidelines) but other than Emery who did his best to steal one, the whole team deserves to take some for what was a rather pedestrian effort in Game 1 of the SCF.

I expect we will see a quicker and more crisp Sens team in Game 2. More than 20 SOG wouldn't hurt either.....

PPP said...

Someone show the Ducks replays of the sens powerplay and remind them how deadly it can be. Shutting down the Pizza Line won't be enough if they keep taking stupid penalties like Jackman's or Getzlaf's.

Earl Sleek said...

Good comments, all.

Good adjustment by Carlyle. I would expect he won't be doing this in Ottawa when he doesn't have last change. I wonder if Murray will move Alfredsson or Heatley to get them away from the Norris connection next game?

I'm not that concerned with road match-ups, to tell you the truth. It's certainly more difficult to get the lineups the Ducks want, but thanks to Carlyle's season-long fascination, the Ducks are very practiced at quick changes after a faceoff. I would think Anaheim is among the more practiced teams at this.

As for Murray splitting up the top line, obviously I don't know much about Murray the coach, but I wouldn't be surprised by the move. All three previous opponents these playoffs at times split apart their top lines to counter the Pahlsson line, so it may happen again.

I expect we will see a quicker and more crisp Sens team in Game 2.

Yeah, I'd certainly expect that. But, for all the talk I've seen about rust and layoffs, I think the Ducks have a step up to give as well. Certainly Anaheim could have been better about taking penalties and surrendering power play goals--I'm not sure I'd expect the special teams production discrepancy to continue; it didn't against the Red Wings. Also I think Giguere's got room for improvement also.

At any rate, as I said yesterday, I didn't really care that much about how the team won, just that a win was pretty necessary. This is not a good time of year for moral victories or lessons-for-the-next-game. It's really the season for wins, deserved or undeserved.

Good thing the Ducks were able to get it done in the third period of G1. Here's hoping it can continue for G2, as well.

Anonymous said...

hey earl gonna give respect now to may and that fantatic four(th line)

if our fourth line can dominate play .....ducks will win the series in 3 jk

ask ben who ray emery will fight by the end of the series(chris pronger) o that detriot cartoon i put on a t- shirt and i'm wearing it to the game accept i put the senator logo on it

mindless said...

an area where ducks could maybe improve... oh, maybe only crosscheck someone in the back 4 times in a row instead of 6.

sometimes what i love about the ducks is what i hate about them. (lookin' at you, getzy.) but in the end, it is still what i love about them.

kwyjibo said...

I didn't notice that at all, Earl. Well spotted. Though part of me thinks "that's so obvious, i wonder why they haven't tried that yet" the other part of me knows it's very abllsy to put all your duck eggs in one basket, not to mention tinker with your top defensive pairing in a Stanley Cup final.

Earl Sleek said...

I didn't notice that at all, Earl. Well spotted.

Well, when your team has a significant drop-off in talent (Pronger to Dipenta, for example), you get trained real quick to always keep an eye on who's playing the blue line. It's become second nature to me now.

Though part of me thinks "that's so obvious, i wonder why they haven't tried that yet" the other part of me knows it's very ballsy to put all your duck eggs in one basket, not to mention tinker with your top defensive pairing in a Stanley Cup final.

Ironically, perhaps, I wrote about the possibility of pairing the two horses just a few days after the Pronger acquisition. Here's my quote from then:

"But now, given a few days to debate with my PS2, I’m wondering again. Why exactly is it a bad idea to play the horses together? If we were any one of 29 other teams, common convention would be to take the top 2 blueliners and paste them together to make a ‘#1 tandem’. And we know that CP and SN can do a lot to help their defensive partners, what would happen if they brought out the best in each other?

It’s not like there’s a lot of redundancy in style, either. CP is the slow-but-sturdy traditional defenseman, adding a lot of punch and power with some blueline bombs. SN is the quick-but-everywhere roamer, without a big shot but extremely intelligent on the puck. Team Canada found this to be quite a desirable tandem, and for sure I think we could also."

tanyaa said...

Hockey's hottest couple (apologies, Willa Ford) hit the gossip pages from Miami to New York over the weekend. The Miami Herald's "Scene in the Tropics" column reports that Rangers winger Sean Avery and his girl Elisha Cuthbert were "cuddling and dancing on the banquette next to the DJ booth" last week at Mokai, an exclusive Miami Beach nightclub with a preposterously Flash-filled Web site.
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Tanyaa
California Dui