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

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pattern Recognition: Emery for the Smythe?

Man, the Ducks have had it too easy when it comes to goaltenders faced these playoffs:

First there was Niklas Backstrom on the Wild, who led the league in goals-against-average and earned the William Jennings Trophy for fewest team goals-allowed in the season. Backstrom hadn’t allowed two goals in a game in over a month leading into the playoffs. What a piece of cake!

Then there was Roberto Luongo on the Canucks, 3rd in the league in shots faced and 4th in save percentage, not to mention his role in Vancouver's top-rated penalty kill. Luongo’s play made him a nominee for the Vezina Trophy, the Pearson Trophy, and the Hart Trophy, the ultimate trifecta for a goaltender. Talk about easy!

In the conference finals the Ducks faced Dominik Hasek on the Red Wings, the only goaltender who’s ever actually won the ultimate trophy trifecta. Behind the Wings blueline, Hasek had the 2nd best goals-against-average in the league, trailing only Backstrom. Plus he had never lost a series for Detroit in his career. Not a problem!

Sure, these goalies had a lot of pedigree and were certainly difficult to score on, but they were not nearly as intriguing as Ottawa netminder Ray Emery. Ray may not be up for any major awards or have a storied playoff history behind him, but he does have something that puts him head-and-shoulders above the rest—the Gerber Factor. JP at the FanHouse may have stolen some of my thunder, but let’s take a look at the stunning playoff history of former Duck Martin Gerber, all three times his team has qualified for the postseason.

2003: Gerber backs up J.S. Giguere as the Ducks win the Western Conference Final and advance to the Cup Finals before losing. J.S. Giguere, playing in his first playoffs, wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

2006: Gerber backs up Cam Ward as the Hurricanes win the Eastern Conference Final and the Stanley Cup championship. Cam Ward, playing in his first playoffs, wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

2007: Gerber backs up Ray Emery as the Senators win the Eastern Conference Final and advance to the Cup Finals.


Simply put, Martin Gerber has been a rabbit’s foot with pads. He’s averaging only about four periods of playing time per playoff year, and even when he's played he has put together less-than-stellar numbers (3.48 GAA, .854 sv%).

Despite his spotty performance, though, he has been to three of the last four cup finals, and he has as many cup rings as playoff wins.

Whether or not you buy the concept of the Gerber Factor, Ray Emery will probably need to play like a Conn Smythe candidate in the Cup Finals against Anaheim. He's going to need to play at an MVP level in order to keep making saves and stay composed while the Ducks repeatedly crash his crease, something that previous opponents all struggled to do (see pictures above). Collectively, Backstrom, Luongo, and Hasek were able to get a total of four wins over Anaheim, and if Emery can equal that achievement, he'll probably deserve some consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

And if that happens, look for Ottawa to extend Martin Gerber's contract for another dozen years or so.

29 comments:

DC In YOW said...

Yeah. The Ducks are the only team in the NHL that crashes the crease or throws a body check. I won't bother to check the stats because it should be obvious to everyone that the Ducks average 4+ goals a game because of it.

Considering half the Ducks shots will be blocked by Volchenkov it should be interesting to watch a team crash the faceoff dots while the Sens are taking the puck the other way.

If Alfie is hoisting the Cup, it is almost certain he will hoisting the Conn Smythe first.

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah. The Ducks are the only team in the NHL that crashes the crease or throws a body check. I won't bother to check the stats because it should be obvious to everyone that the Ducks average 4+ goals a game because of it.

The point isn't about total goal counts--the Ducks have played 3 of the best defensive teams in hockey and still managed enough goals to win. The Senators have played 1 defensive team and two run-and-gun teams. The goal counts don't really bother me.

As for the crease crashing being "common", well go look at Backstrom's quotes, Luongo's quotes, and Hasek's quotes. They were overwhelmed, and their opinion means more to me than yours.

Limey said...

Wow. Sens fans are kind of dicks.

Should be a fun series.

DC In YOW said...

The Ducks have played 3 of the best defensive teams in hockey

Or 2 offensively inept teams and 1 well rounded team.

They were overwhelmed

I'm sure they were.

and their opinion means more to me than yours.

Game 1 is still 4 days away and Ducks fan is already getting testy under the spotlight.

Earl Sleek said...

Or 2 offensively inept teams and 1 well rounded team.

Whatever you would like to call them (and oh how I hope this becomes a semantics argument, sheesh!), they were difficult to score against and difficult to beat.

Since Christmas, Minnesota, Vancouver, and Detroit combined for a 91-29-20 record (202 points). Since Christmas, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Buffalo combined for a 90-37-15 record (195 points). You can call these teams whatever you want, I suppose, but they weren't inept at outscoring opponents going into the playoffs.

Jibblescribbits said...

I think for Emery to lift the Conn Smythe he's going to have to be the second coming of Patrick Roy in the finals.

He will have to pass Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatly in Conn Smythe standings and if they go in the tank I don't think Ottawa will win.

Daniel said...

I think it is hard for Ottawa fans to get this far, knowing the heartache each time they got eliminated before, and having to deal with the fact that they their goalie is the weakest link. Bad time to have that be the case. Think Roy vs Vanbiesbrouck in '96.

Ottawa may be better then the Panthers in '96, but Vanbiesbrouck was not up to the task of beating Roy. Nor am I comaparing Roy to Giguere in terms facing each other, just the similarity of goalie matchups.

Daniel said...

The traffic in that picture looks almost as bad as the 5 freeway by the way.

hockeychic said...

I think goaltending is going to be the key in this series. I think both Emery and Giguere can be rattled. I don't think Emery is going to like all that traffic in his crease.

I have not watched Ottawa much this year so I can't comment on them with a lot of authority. I did see the Ducks a lot (too much in the last series, sigh!) I think it will take a game or two for these teams to get a sense of each other since they haven't played each other all year (thanks, Gary - NOT!).

Scott said...

One guy says something and Sens fans are dicks? Um, OK.

Anyway, this series is really interesting to me as a Sens fan. If you read the hockey blogs and chat boards, there's absolutely no middle ground here. The Ducks fans are convinced the Senators are a significantly inferior team, while the Eastern Conference and Sens devotees are seriously asking whether Anaheim can even win one game in this series. I've never seen such a difference of opinion on a playoff series.

My thoughts? As a Sens fan for more than a decade -- and a lifelong Clevelander and subsequent devotee of the hard-luck Browns, Cavs and Indians -- I'm automatically conditioned for failure. Nothing that happens will surprise me, especially since the Ducks and Sens haven't even PLAYED each other in more than a year...the wackiest stat of them all, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, good luck to you guys. It should be a fun series.

Earl Sleek said...

The Ducks fans are convinced the Senators are a significantly inferior team, while the Eastern Conference and Sens devotees are seriously asking whether Anaheim can even win one game in this series. I've never seen such a difference of opinion on a playoff series.

Maybe I need to clarify my stance here. I'm not really saying anything about which team is better, I haven't predicted the Ducks to win one round this playoff year and I don't plan on starting now, especially with a team as unknown to me as Ottawa.

For you new Ottawa readers, "Pattern Recognition" posts aren't meant to be taken literally, they just point out an odd trend in hockey (such as Gerber's fascination for backing up Conn Smythe winners). Previously, I have used them to predict useless things like Phoenix making the western conference finals, for example.

But yeah, there are still serious questions to consider here, mainly if the Ducks could beat some of the best goaltenders out there, how good will Emery have to be? He's going to be a huge factor in this series, and I'm curious to see how well he can the fort.

Earl Sleek said...

uh, hold the fort, I mean.

Earl Sleek said...

One guy says something and Sens fans are dicks? Um, OK.

Don't worry yourselves on this issue, Sens fans. There's probably no way you guys can measure up to Red Wings fans in this department.

We're still probably punchy from constantly defending our team, our region, our fans, our hockey knowledge, etc. from that last series.

DC In YOW said...

I think it is hard for Ottawa fans to get this far

Not really.

having to deal with the fact that they their goalie is the weakest link.

Most Sens fans are concerned about the secondary scoring. Emery is not much of a worry. He's let in some ones that he would like to have back but he has yet to give up the "bad goal at the wrong time". Grant Fuhr was kind of like that.

DC In YOW said...

We're still probably punchy from constantly defending our team, our region, our fans, our hockey knowledge, etc. from that last series.

Battle scars are good..... 8^)

Daniel said...

I am confused now...So secondary scoring is a problem for the Sens? So you think the Pahlsson line with Pronger and O'Donnell can't neutralize those three? That is an honest question, I am not trying to be a dick when I ask that.

Earl Sleek said...

Good question, Daniel. One I've kind of had myself, actually. Maybe this goes back to Scott's comment, too.

Ottawa fans rightfully are used to the Spezza line carrying their team. The big line seemed to score plenty against the first three opponents, so why would we expect that to stop now?

On the other hand, Anaheim fans rightfully are used to beating teams that are top-line heavy. What killed MIN and VAN and to a degree DET was the inability to get many points out of the top line and an inability to get hardly anything out of the rest of the forwards. Why would we expect that to stop now?

So from either perspective, it's tough probably to figure how what's worked so far in the playoffs will cease to work now in the SCF, but probably by definition one team's M.O. will do exactly that. I don't really know how you call it at this point, though.

To be perfectly honest, I think the Ducks are more vulnerable to a 4-line team than a 1-line team, but if Spezza & Co. can keep scoring as they have, maybe I'm wrong.

DC In YOW said...

So secondary scoring is a problem for the Sens?

The word "problem" is a little strong but I think there are more than a few Sens fans would like to see more consistent offense out of Fisher, Comrie, Schafer and maybe Vermette. But they are getting their chances, many of them from turnovers on the forecheck. All these guys are making huge contributions elsewhere, with Vermette's PK being the most visible.

There has been some unexpected and timely offense from McAmmond on the 4th line.

So you think the Pahlsson line with Pronger and O'Donnell can't neutralize those three?

I have no idea because I don't see them play much. So far, no one else been able to handle "those three", mostly because "those three" have the puck a lot of the time. I do know they are a handful to play against now that both Spezza and Heatley have added a defensive dimension to their games. It is still very surreal watching Spezza drop to block shots......

Scott said...

Earl: That's just it...the Sens really HAVEN'T been a one-line team in these playoffs. They've rolled four lines pretty consistently. As DC says, I would like for Fisher and Comrie to have been responsible for more of the goals thus far, but all in all, all four lines have generated chances.

Daniel: You ask a great question, really. The problem is, these teams see so little of each other, there isn't much common ground on which to base an answer. I know Pahlsson is a Selke finalist, and deservedly so, I'm sure, but for what it's worth: Jay Pandolfo, another Selke finalist, was minus-4 in five playoff games against Ottawa. That doesn't take into account the relative strength of his linemates, but it's about the only relevant statistical point I can make here.

DC In YOW said...

To be perfectly honest, I think the Ducks are more vulnerable to a 4-line team than a 1-line team

We're about to find out. Bryan Murray will roll 4 lines and all 4 lines have put pucks in the net. One 4th liner to keep an eye on is Schubert. He's a converted D man (he plays D on the PK if Phillips or Volchenkov are in the box) who is probably chomping at the bit to take some runs at Pronger.

DC In YOW said...

What scott said..... 8^)

Earl Sleek said...

When I meant 1-line team vs. 4-line team, it was meant in a "production" standpoint, not a "time-on-ice" standpoint.

Minny had 4 lines, but really Demitra-Gaborik line was the main one that scored. Vancouver had 4 lines, but really it was Sedin-Sedin-Naslund that was the worry. Detroit got a bulk of its scoring out of Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom.

It sounds to me (and I'm not that Ottawa-versed) that the Sens got a similar scoring structure--three forwards have nearly half the team's goals. Anyway, that's what I meant by 1-line, anyway--there's really one main line that needs to be shut down, not four.

Daniel said...

I think the only way to settle this before the series actually starts is for someone to set up a PS2 or the PC version of NHL 07 and simulate the games. That monkey just doesn't cut it for me anymore, we need virtual simulation.

DC In YOW said...

there's really one main line that needs to be shut down, not four.

AFAIK, the only team that can come anywhere close to 4 productive lines are the 'slugs.

Most big scoring lines have 2 main guys and the 3rd is a spare part in comparison to the other two. The Sens big line has 3 main guys and needs the full attention of 3 checkers, not 1 or 2.

So where is the ANA scoring is going to come from? From the stat sheet it looks to me like the Sens need to pay particular attention to Pronger, Selanne and Getzlaf.

Earl Sleek said...

So where is the ANA scoring is going to come from? From the stat sheet it looks to me like the Sens need to pay particular attention to Pronger, Selanne and Getzlaf.

That sounds like a good enough place to start, but this team has not been getting production from any one concentrated source this postseason. Teemu's been shut down for long stretches, as an example, without the team faltering too much.

Here's the playoff totals thus far:

Top line (Selanne / McDonald / Kunitz, Marchant):
11 g, 16 a, 27 points

Kid line (Penner / Perry / Getzlaf):
11 g, 16 a, 27 points

Stopper line (Pahlsson / Moen / Rob N.):
10 g, 16 a, 26 points

Blueline top 3 (Scott / Pronger / Beauchemin):
9 g, 21 a, 30 points

DC In YOW said...

The most impressive is the "Stopper Line". Take out Getzlaf and Selanne from the other two lines and almost half of the points disappear. Easier said than done I suppose.....

If Bryan Murray wants to do some line matching (which he hasn't done much of so far), I'm guessing Kelly, Neil, Vermette would go up against the "pPG line" and Fisher, Comrie, Schafer would go against the "Top line". McDonald will not enjoy his quality time with Fish. I would think the 4th line of McAmmond, Eaves and Schubert would see much of their ice time against the kids since there is no 4th line for them to play against but Murray hasn't really hesitated to play them against anyone.

I am going to assume Carlyle will make sure Pahlsson gets out against "those three". However, one major error the Devils made was sticking with Madden and Pandalfo even though it was clear "those three" were owning them. Does Carlyle dare putting one of the other two lines out against them?

Earl Sleek said...

Does Carlyle dare putting one of the other two lines out against them?

He occasionally will go strength-on-strength (i.e., the Teemu line against the other team's top line), but really, there's no Plan B. The Pahlsson line has been doing its duties for 98 games now; I don't see them stopping for the last 4-to-7.

Sherry said...

I have to say that secondary scoring is a larger concern over Emery but I don't think it'll be a huge issue. Against Buffalo, Fisher, Schaefer and McAmmond all chipped in. They probably didn't generate as much offense or goals as the top line had because the Senators had to change their game-plan to adjust to the Sabres', who rolled four very high-powered offensive lines. Fisher and Kelly's lines had to contain the Sabres' offensive chances and McAmmond and Schubert's line were all about taking it to them physically.

The top line is leading the team in scoring, and then after that is McAmmond and I believe it's defensemen from there down.

I think if anybody can legitimately shut down the top line, it'll be Anaheim, whether or not they actually do remains to be seen. The Senators have been very good at adjusting to their opponents' style of play so far in the playoffs.

Itlan said...

I'm 8 hours late to the party. Glad everybody calmed down and got to some real hockey talk.

I think all fans of both teams should not underestimate the power of the other. Obviously, both teams have done something right to be here. Ducks are less defensive than they look, and both Pronger and Skeetermayer have looked less than stellar this playoffs.

The 4th line is just a "breather" line. They'll do some checking duty early in the game, and late if the Ducks have a nice lead.

A lot is said about Pronger/Skeeter, but Beauchemin and O'Donnell are pretty solid too. Huskins and Jackman are also "breathers" and both are average (which is saying a lot for Huskins since he was an AHL call up late in the season).

I am not saying they can't, but the Sens need to score even strength as well as on the PP. Detroit had that problem, and only started scoring 5-on-5 late in the series. Ducks will give the Sens 6-9 PP per game, with at least one 5-on-3. The Ducks' PK is pretty good. They had some trouble against Detroit mostly because of Holmstrom and Bertuzzi parking their big butts in front of Jiggy.

I really can't wait until Monday. I am sure I'll be impressed with the Sens, and I hope the Ducks can impress the Sens fans.