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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ducks Gameday—Who's Anaheim's Conn Smythe?

Round Four, Game Five: (4) Ottawa Senators at (2) Anaheim Ducks
(ANA leads series 3-1, JavaGeek ‘odds’: ANA 90%)

(Author's note: a lot of this GDP is going to reek a lot of arrogance, as if the wounded Senators are not to be taken seriously in G5. Trust me--I am nervous as anyone about this game, but certain things must be attended to after 15 wins.)

Now that Anaheim sits on the cusp, speculation has begun about who's a suitable candidate for the Conn Smythe trophy.

The Ducks, similar to their 2003 run, have been able to dominate tight hockey games. The 2003 Mighty Ducks were 12-1 in one-goal games (7-0 in OT); this year's Ducks are 12-2 (4-1 in OT). In 2003, the obvious difference-maker was Conn-Smythe-winner J.S. Giguere. This year, though, it's not so clear.

In terms of scoring forwards, nobody seems to be carrying the team with any regularity. If anything, the kid line has shown the most consistency, but they are still playing in somewhat sheltered minutes. Regardless, the scoring Anaheim's using hasn't been dependent on any one line or one player, really.

In terms of the defense, Anaheim's top two candidates are tainted by games-missed:

  • Chris Pronger shouldn’t win because the league suspended him twice for elbowing, plus the fact that the team won two games without him. It’s really a shame, because I think he was robbed of the trophy last year. He currently leads the team in ice-time-per-game, plus-minus, is 3rd in scoring and 3rd in shots-on-goal.

  • J.S. Giguere shouldn’t win because the Ducks earned three one-goal wins in the first round with him sitting on the bench. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that for a goalie to win the Smythe, he should have at least earned all his team’s postseason wins (stupid Cam Ward). Besides, giving the award to goaltenders too often would cheapen what he did in 2003—Giguere is still more than 250 saves short of that playoff run.
So let's take a look at the guy I think should win it, then (surprise, surprise): Sleek-favorite Sammy Pahlsson (my choice after round one, as well as ESPN's current leader).

In order to appreciate Pahlsson's Selke nomination as well as his overall value in a game, you probably have to get a sense of the difficulty of minutes Pahlsson plays. At even-strength, it is Pahlsson's job to match rigorously against the opponent's top offensive line and not get outscored.

And by golly he's been doing it very well this postseason, along with his checking buddies Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen. Playing against top offensive threats, Sammy was +1 against Minnesota, +3 against Vancouver, +2 against Detroit, and +1 so far against Ottawa. Not only that, but his line's effectiveness led all four opposing coaches to tinker with their top lines, in an effort to free up a scorer: Gaborik got split from Demitra, Sedin got split from Sedin, Zetterberg got split from Datsyuk, and Alfredsson got split from Heatley.

Sammy brings the ability to apply the body (he leads the league with 76 hits this postseason, 40 more than the next-highest teammate) as well as win faceoffs (he leads the league with 235 faceoff wins this postseason, 100 more than his next-highest teammate), two huge parts of Anaheim's puck pursuit game.

On top of his difficult even-strength assignment, he also kills penalties for the Ducks—LOTS of penalties (remember, these are the punch-happy Ducks). Pahlsson leads the league (including defensemen!) these playoffs with 105 shorthanded minutes, including numerous 3-on-5 assignments.

And despite the toughest even-strength minutes available, and despite playing as many shorthanded minutes as possible, and despite hardly getting a sniff of any power play time, when you consider all this together, Pahlsson has been on the ice for 16 goals-for, and 15 goals-against (es: 14-8, pp: 1-0, pk: 1-7). Basically, Sammy has taken the toughest twenty minutes of every game, and helped turn them into a break-even/positive result.

For sure he's had loads of help, from the goaltender to the defensemen to his impressively tenacious wingers. But he is the steadfast centerman--the key to Anaheim's defensive match-up system, as he has been for each and every game this season. Oh yeah, did I mention that Sammy's been on the ice for 7 game-winning goals this postseason, including 6 of the last 9?

  • And that brings me to Scott Niedermayer, my second choice, if they are awarding it for leadership. Though he has played 200 more minutes than Pahlsson, 110 of those minutes have come on the power play. And despite the benefit of that extra power play time, his overall numbers show that Niedermayer has been on the ice for 22 goals-for and 25 goals-against (es: 14-11, pp: 8-2, pk: 0-12). Scott has played more minutes than anyone this postseason, but his special-teams results are somewhat shaky. He'd have to win this award based on his captaincy and endurance, I think.
Pronger, by the way? 28 goals-for, 14 goals-against (es: 16-7, pp: 10-2, pk: 2-5). It's a shame he's such a headhunter.

So, now that you've been sufficiently brainwashed, who's your pick for if-the-Ducks-win MVP? Leave it in the comments.

If the Ducks can win tonight, one could argue that they have made the most money possible in these playoffs without having to face elimination. In every series thus far, the Ducks have played three home games, eliminating opponents at home to avoid unnecessary travel. Anaheim saved trips to Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit, and possibly one trip to Ottawa. Now I don’t have much clue about how playoff revenue-sharing works, but you gotta think this is a significant earnings boost for the Ducks franchise—maybe even enough money to re-sign Giguere?

Giguere, by the way, is 6-0 when he has a chance to eliminate a playoff opponent in Anaheim, with a sparkling 1.69 GAA and a .936 sv%.

I'm not going to tonight's game, but I can't say that I'm that bummed about it. I spent my money and had a great time at G1 and G2, and can't cut work super-early tomorrow anyway.

Instead, I'll be where I was last game, reducing stress through comments at IPB's game post. (Be warned, newcomers. You've already got some nicknames to learn. You can check out their G4 post to see what I'm talking about.)

Prediction: Ducks 5, Senators 2. In each series so far, the Ducks have gotten three one-goal wins and one blowout win, and they’ve already got three one-goal wins this series. (Plus, this was the score the last time the Cup was set to be awarded in Anaheim.) Goals by Pronger, Selanne x2, Pahlsson, and Getzlaf.

Go Ducks.


Julian said...

I know you love Sammy, Sleek, and I don't want to do anything to disparage your man-crush, but I think Giguere is the team's MVP.

For me I think it comes down to the fact that an award for Pahlsson is really an award for his unit, even if he is the straw that stirs the drink (thank you Mr. October).

Without Giguere the Ducks are nowhere. Without Pahlsson they're hurting, but I'm not sure they're dead.

Having said this, I'd be thrilled to see Sammy win.

Earl Sleek said...

Without Giguere the Ducks are nowhere.

Without Giguere the Ducks went up 3-1 against a very good Wild squad. Remember, Giguere still has one fewer win than Emery.

Without Pahlsson they're hurting, but I'm not sure they're dead.

Maybe, but it has been outstanding in these playoffs. He's made superstars invisible on some nights.

Anonymous said...

Conn Smythe, Jr. award goes to Getzlaf. He's great, but no where near full potential... He leads Duck forwards with 9 goals and 16 points.

The Puck Stops Here said...

I would argue that if we define Conn Smythe as the guy who created the most win shares for his team (see Bill James - except we dont have a good enough statistical record to mathematically define this term in hockey) then Nicklas Lidstrom leads the playoffs and he's not even in the finals.

Chris Pronger leads among people in the finals. But he cant win cause he had two suspensions.

Therefore we must give the Conn Smythe to an underserving recipient.

Earl Sleek said...

Well, JavaGeek had a post that indicated that according to something that sounds like win shares, Luongo should win the Smythe.

Therefore we must give the Conn Smythe to an undeserving recipient.

Well, that might be overstating things, especially if we're defining Lidstrom as 'deserving'. It's a reasonable prerequisite given the timing of the award that the winner be present at the decisive game.

I don't think anyone's undeserving of a Smythe (it's a measure of relative value of elilgible players--I don't think there's an absolute benchmark for it). That would be like saying that nobody deserves an Art Ross Trophy if the league leader has less than 100 points.

Just because there are several valuable players for a team's success doesn't mean there's no deserving winner; it just means there's no clear-cut winner. But just because there's not an '03 Giguere in the cup finals every year doesn't mean that nobody deserves the trophy.

JavaGeek said...

Giguere will win it.

I'm surprised no one mentioned Beauchemin. Beauchemin is 4th in minutes per game (just below Pronger, Zubov and Lidstrom).

Pahlsson would be a good choice as well. Generally though the cup is won by a team and especially in Anaheim's case this is true.

Ben said...

The Conn Smythe doesn't always go to the winning team - ask Giguere.

The Puck Stops Here said...

Therefore we must give the Conn Smythe to an undeserving recipient.

Undeserviong in the sense that they are not the most valuable player in the playoffs (I argue that is Lidstrom) and they are likely not the most valuable player who made the finals (Pronger).

Earl Sleek said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned Beauchemin. Beauchemin is 4th in minutes per game (just below Pronger, Zubov and Lidstrom).

Beauchemin, though, has similar results to Scott Niedermayer (they're usually partners, so that makes sense)--good even-strength, and so-so special teams. Given the choice of Scotty or Frenchie, I'd say Scotty gets it for the leadership factor.

Although Frenchie does have one thing that Pronger or Giguere don't have--the team did fail to win with Beauchemin out of the lineup in Round 1.

Undeserving in the sense that they are not the most valuable player in the playoffs (I argue that is Lidstrom) and they are likely not the most valuable player who made the finals (Pronger).

I buy the second part of this more than the first. Lidstrom (and Luongo), pure and simple, don't meet the base requirements--an appearance in the Finals. The definition of this award may say "most valuable in the playoffs", but we shouldn't get so literal that we ignore the more appropriate description that is accurate of all previous trophy winners: "most valuable in the playoffs that qualified for the finals".

Regardless of his relative value, Lidstrom is undeserving because he shouldn't even be in consideration; he is missing the basic requirement of being here.

Rick said...

If you're going to the game tonight, please remember to boooo Alfie.

Because the Conn Smythe won't go to a losing team player unless the series goes 7, there's no chance of that.

I would pick Niedermayer, with Giguere a close second, and Pahlsson a close third.

But who cares? They can pick Rory Fitzpatrick for the CS as long as California gets its Cup.

¡Copa de Don Stanley!

Stevens8204 said...

Pahlsson no question and for the record this is the most confident I have seen Javageek in any playoff game...hope he can deliver...err..I mean the Ducks.

Earl Sleek said...

for the record this is the most confident I have seen Javageek in any playoff game...

Well, just to be clear, JG is predicting a series win, not a particular game outcome. That is to say, JavaGeek's numbers predict that the Ducks are 90% likely to win one of the next three games (not 90% likely to win tonight).

Though this post has been brazen enough, people shouldn't forget that in this series, the Ducks have scored only one more goal than the Senators have. It's still likely to be a nailbiter tonight, even with whatever streaks we want to cite.

Kent W. said...

Pahlsson is my pick as well. Although, I thought Brindamour was going to win it last year so what do I know?

Dirk Hoag said...

When it comes to revenue sharing, I don't believe teams share out of their gate receipts, making the playoffs a gravy train for most teams. Player salaries are already paid for, sellouts are the norm, and tickets prices are typically jacked up.

Bryan said...

Giggy barely played the first series. His poor play actually kept the Ducks from sweeping Vancouver. He turned it on midway through the Wings series and played amazing to keep the Ducks in the pivotal G5. He played well in G2 on the 5 on 3 and definitely last game to keep it close. McDonald who was basically invisible since his hat trick against Vancouver now has 4 goals in the Finals to lead all players, and I do always believe that weight should be given towards later series than early. Bringing us to Getzlaf and Pronger who were definitely the MVPs midway through the playoffs but Getzlaf hasnt played well in the Finals and Pronger despite some strong defensive performances at home in the Finals, his own goal and suspension take him out of the equation. Niedermayer has 2 ot game winners and the huge gametying goal against Redwings. He was sloppy on D in the Red Wing series but he has been great in the Finals playing his ass off in G4 . Selanne, despite not having a goal has 3 primary assists, and did have 6 points in the last 3 games of the Red Wing series. Plus his presence on ice always draws players towards him to create room for everyone else. Last of all, is Sammy. Two game winners including the only goal in G2 and the big goal in G6 against Detroit. He leads the team in hits, is dominant in the face off circle, all while facing the best the other teams have to offer. Facing a team that relies so heavily on 1 line, Pahlson's role has been huge in this Finals. So who gets it? I agree with Pahlson because the story of this series was ultimately could the Ducks stop Ottawa's top line and Pahlson has been the main reason. Then Probably McDonald or Niedermayer, with Giguere and Selanne rounding out the top 5.

Bryan said...

BTW Pronger did not win last year because the NHl wants to avoid making it a habit of giving the award to teams in losing efforts. Giguere was the first to win since Hextall and that is because of his extraordinary play in the first 3 series. It is arguable that Broduer should have won the Conn Smythe that year and would have had he not given up that horrific goal in G3, which I believe kept the series from being a sweep. However, in the Finals Brodeur still had 3 shutouts and I believe has the record for 7 in a playoff season, which I can definitely see that as good as Giguere was it could have easily gone to Brodeur.

One habit that I don't like is to usually default the award to a goalie. 4 of the last 9 Conns have been given to goalies. Probably only 2 were well deserved. Roy and giguere. Vernon although he appeared to be the missing piece Detroit finally needed in 97, he wasnt exceptional Similar to Ward who beat out Selke winner Brindamour, though Ward did make a circus save in G1 last year that I'm sure had a lot to do with. My biggest gripe is that goalie numbers should get better in the playoffs by virtue of better defenses as opposed to better forwards go deeper in the playoffs. So goalies don't have to worry about the Ovechkins, Crosbys, and Kovalchuks lighting them up. Also scouting is huge in a series since you're not just playing a team for one game and moving on, therefore teams devise more effective defensive strategies which further help a goalies numbers in the playoffs.

Yeah I have a lot to write but I'm fired up about possibly seeing a cup presentation tonight.

Earl Sleek said...

One habit that I don't like is to usually default the award to a goalie. 4 of the last 9 Conns have been given to goalies. Probably only 2 were well deserved. Roy and giguere.

I agree with you here. I mean, it's awfully easy to say that goalies are valuable to winning, and for sure whatever goalies who are in the SCF will have fairly good stats to support an MVP bid, just by virtue of wins and losses necessary to advance that far.

I think for the Conn Smythe, though, they should tighten the goalie criteria. They really should be looking for goalies that are particularly outstanding, given the fact that candidate goalie numbers should look pretty decent to start with.

Bethany said...

OMG Go Ducks Go!

Julian said...

I agree goalies have an unfair advantage as they are almost inevitably the team's most important player, but the award is supposed to be for MVP of the playoffs.

Unlike the regular season there isn't a secondary trophy for the men in pads, so it's not really suprising that goalies have won such a high percentage.

In any event, GO DUCKS!

Citizen Saint said...

Go Ducks

First time comment
Long time fan

just started my new blog

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

I came up with a good capsulation of your joke from a couple posts ago, Earl. The first period made it funny.

What do Darth Vader and the Ottawa Senators have in common?

When things don't go their way, they both choke.

Sean Zandberg said...

Sleek, it's 5-2 Ducks right now. Your prediction is downright scary good!
You must be beside yourself right now. Good on ya, buddy. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

Wear the green tee with pride, my friend!

Full marks to the Ducks for kicking ass nearly all season long.