Fantasy Hockey Playoff ONE (6/1)
WRITTEN BY CHRIS WASSEL | 01 JUNE 2011
Thanks to our good friends from SBRForum for this “betting” preview. It is often said that the Stanley Cup Finals is the best and yet saddest moment of the hockey season. Indeed it is very true as in a couple weeks or less, the season will be over. Yet it is a showcase for the hockey world, go figure.
Pretty much everyone knows what to expect with Boston and Vancouver. However to be fair, we will do a mini preview for Game 1 tonight. The game will likely start sometime around 8:30pm ET, give or take several minutes.
INJURY NINJA TAKE ONE:
Manny Malhotra (VAN) — Left eye surgery…likely not to play in Game 1.
Mikael Samuelson (VAN) — OUT for Finals (Sports hernia / torn adductor)
Christian Erhoff, Aaron Rome, and Ryan Kesler will all play tonight.
Lee Sweatt will not play in the finals for Vancouver and neither will Marc Savard (concussion) or Trent Whitfield (Achilles) for Boston.
So basically if you look back from just a quick glance, it appears Boston had the tougher road although some of that was their own doing and the quirky thing is the same assertion can be made for Vancouver as well. Yet they are here for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The goalies are both 12-6 with a 2.29 GAA. Tim Thomas has a .929 save percentage to Roberto Luongo’s .922. Luongo was a bit better in Round 3 while Tim Thomas was a bit better in Round 1 and 2. Yes it is funny how this often works out. One definitely bit of concern would be Thomas’s 2.73 GAA and .916 save percentage against Tampa Bay. Vancouver is widely regarded as being a bit more of a complete version than Tampa to be honest.
However Boston could give Roberto Luongo trouble as well. Big physical presences do tend to create some havoc around the Vancouver netminder. We saw what Dave Bolland did against Luongo and maybe Zdeno Chara can create some of that same magic on the man advantage while Milan Lucic (former Vancouver Giant) could do much the same from the frontline. Lucic looked much healthier in Game 6 and 7 of the Tampa series compared to early on in that round. He must be 100% including with the rest of the first line (Nathan Horton and David Krejci) for Boston to create chances.
Vancouver comes in with better depth offensively and defensively though Boston does have an edge on the blueline (maybe not fantasy wise). The Sedin Twins and Boston’s first line have been great and invisible in these playoffs in varying stretches but those Twins have been on fire in Rounds 2 and 3 while Boston well…they are missing a competent power play to a point.
PREVIEW FROM FANTASYHOCKEY.com:
We do a lot of work with the guys from fantasyhockey.com and here is their Finals preview. Remember to check out Weekly Slapshot on Saturdays at Noon ET on Blog Talk Radio.
In spite of the geographical distance between the two finals participants, they are linked in a few interesting ways. Even though the Bruins are the last Original 6 team to face the Canucks in a playoff series, the two squads happened to play in the same division during the early 1970s. As well, there is the infamous Cam Neely trade, where prospect Neely and a first-round pick that turned out to be Glen Wesley were the asking price for proven scorer Barry Pederson, who did not quite turn around the fortunes of one of the league’s worst teams at the time. Then there is Cam Neely 2.0, East Vancouver product Milan Lucic, who will attempt to convert as many Vancouver locals as possible to the other side.
But something tells me that unlike the finals in 1982 and 1994, when the Canucks were underdogs against stronger teams from the New York area, this year’s team has what it takes to win it all. If for no other reason, the following numerical coincidence involving Canadian hockey teams and the Olympics could prove that it’s the Canucks’ time.
1976: Montreal hosts Summer Olympics
1977: Montreal Canadiens finish with the most regular-season points and win the Stanley Cup
1988: Calgary hosts Winter Olympics
1989: Calgary Flames finish with the most regular-season points and win the Stanley Cup
2010: Vancouver hosts Winter Olympics
2011: Vancouver Canucks finish with the most regular-season points and… you get the point
By the way, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver are the only three Canadian cities to ever host the Olympics. If Vancouver wins the Cup, imagine how hard Toronto will be pushing for the games!
Okay, so I’ll need more substantial proof as to why I think the Canucks will win the Stanley Cup, which I will get to shortly. But first, I’ll provide my usual information for playoff poolies. Unlike the articles of the first three rounds, I’m not going to list studs, duds, and sleepers. If you play in any playoff pool like the one going on atFantasy Postseason, just about any player playing for the two participating teams is fair game at this point. Heck, I used my number one waiver claim to pick up Maxim Lapierre before the Stanley Cup Final. The same night, I added Brett Clarkand Mike Lundin prior Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. These adds probably won’t turn into the most savvy pickups I’ve ever made in a fantasy league, but I can at least brag about adding Tyler Seguin before the start of the Eastern Conference Final. So, you never know what might happen. If your league runs out of players, perhaps your player pool will expand to include trainers, Zamboni drivers, and even the dudes who sell popcorn and 50/50 tickets.
If there is one goalie in the NHL that has the Canucks’ number, it could well be Tim Thomas. The Bruins’ unorthodox-style keeper has allowed a Gerry Cheevers-like one goal in three career games against the Nucks. Following two shutouts, Thomas led the Bruins to a 3-1 win over Vancouver in the teams’ only meeting this season on February 26 at Rogers Arena. You might also want to buy stock in local boy Lucic, who impressed the local fans with a goal and two assists and a +3 that night. The Bruins will probably try to use Lucic (6’3”, 228 lbs.) and Nathan Horton (6’2”, 229 lbs.) the same way the Blackhawks were able to successfully implement Dustin Byfuglien last season – wreaking havoc in front of Roberto Luongo’s face. The Canucks will likely throw goal scorer and pugilist Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuison the ice whenever the Bruins’ big bodies are out there.
Bruins coach Claude Julien also seemed fond of using Zdeno Chara to shadow Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin during the February 26 meeting. The Sedins had struggled against the Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook tandem in Round 1 and the Shea Weber/Ryan Suter tandem in Round 2, but they seemed able to skate circles around the Dan Boyle/Douglas Murray tandem in their last series. (Overhead at a Vancouver-area Costco today: One staff member telling another what the Bruins are like, saying that Chara is a 6′9″ European tower of power that would even scare Nicklas Lidstrom.) The Sedins may be in for a tougher time in this series, although it’s worth noting that Henrik’s faceoff record (11-4) was considerably better than Patrice Bergeron’s (4-11) in the teams’ previous encounter.
If there’s a clear advantage that the Canucks hold over the Bruins, it’s in special teams. The Canucks led the NHL with a 24.3% power-play percentage during the regular season, with that percentage only improving during the playoffs to 28.3%. The Bruins, by comparison, have scored only five power-play goals in 61 attempts over the entire playoffs for a meager 8.2% success rate. Although the two teams’ penalty kill percentages have been similar during the playoffs, the Canucks had the third-best penalty kill (85.6%) during the regular season. In other words, the Bruins better hope the entire series is a carbon copy of Game 7 against Tampa Bay – a rare penalty-free game.
Prediction: Canucks in 6. A few of my friends have already texted/emailed me saying that this thing will be over in four or five games. The temptation here would be to write off the Bruins as an easier opponent for the Canucks than the Sharks or the Blackhawks were, but some of the stats listed above suggest that we shouldn’t be so hasty. However, I haven’t even gotten into Ryan Kesler, who could be a difference maker in this series the same way he was against Nashville. Since the Bruins don’t roster a front-line center of the caliber ofJonathan Toews or Joe Thornton, Kesler should be able to return to a more offensive role against the Bruins, creating matchup problems for Julien. My early prediction is that a strong series against the B’s will ice him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011
Crazy times indeed as Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals gets under way tonight. Thanks to TSN and so many others for helping us out as always and of courseScott Cullen and all the fantasy experts that we know. This column is a testament to the readers and experts out there, plainly put.
Game 1’s are always so tough to gauge and since Boston has had a few days off and Vancouver has had over a week, this is truly no exception to the rule. Boston does come in with a little less rust honestly.
Also thanks again to NHL11 as we ran one simulation in honor of Game 1 tonight between Vancouver and Boston. We did take into account for the rust with two backup simulations as well just in case. Those were indeed factored in. Here is the results.
NHL11 Sim Game 1:
- Tim Thomas (BOS) — 3 GA on 29 shots
- David Krejci (BOS) — 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 SOG
- Patrice Bergeron (BOS) — 1 goal, 3 SOG, 60% FOW
- Zdeno Chara (BOS) — 6 hits, 5 SOG
- Nathan Horton (BOS) — 1 assist, 4 SOG
- Roberto Luongo (VAN) — 2 GA on 27 shots
- Henrik Sedin (VAN) — 2 assists, 3 SOG
- Ryan Kesler (VAN) — 2 assists, 4 SOG
- Alex Burrows (VAN) — 2 goals, 5 SOG
- Kevin Bieksa (VAN) — 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 SOG
Again we went a standard 5 x 5 as far as guys who would have a factor based on the sims. There are always wildcards in any of these scenarios. Dennis Seidenbergmay play more of a key role in attempting to stop the Sedin Twins than Zdeno Chara. Seidenberg really has improved his play and confidence all season and this is not from the Dennis Wideman style “Chara Effect”.
Now I did pick Vancouver in six tough games here but Game 1 tonight I have a much simpler prediction. Vancouver is more proficient on the power play and they tally twice tonight while Boston does not score on theirs again and that will be the difference.
Vancouver 4 Boston 2 (FINAL)
Good luck poolies and fans out there and enjoy the game and show tonight most importantly of course.