Friday, May 22

by Neil Parker

Ducks-Hawks Game 3, Anaheim's new D duo, Hossa and Babcock.


Was it just me, or did the marathon Game 2 between Anaheim and Chicago return a killer hangover?

Game 3 was sloppy, and while there were plenty of chances, the puck always seemed at odds with everyone.

Honestly, at times my own head hurt watching.


There was a lot of praise for Simon Despres Thursday, and a few rambles back, Dobber talked about him, too. His strong play for the Ducks makes sense. When you join a deep team and pair with Cam Fowler, it works.

Considering the defense crew he was running with in Pittsburgh, it is a huge upgrade and maybe shouldn't be that surprising, especially given his pedigree.

Plus, Fowler looks incredible, and he has played nearly flawless during the second season, hasn't he?
The pairing is clicking, and they're a combined plus-17. Say what you will about the flaws surrounding plus/minus, and there are plenty, but the guys on the bench know leaving dash-free is important. Plus, they both sit with a goal and six helpers over 12 playoff games.



They've primarily matched up against Patrick KaneBrad Richards and Bryan Bickell this series, and the trio tallied for the first time Thursday. It was a rather fluky goal, too. Three Ducks avoided running into each other after a poor attempted pass from Richards to Kane. It was a sitting meatball for Kane.  There is a video clip below.



The Fowler-Despres pairing has been instrumental for the Ducks, and with both players young and returning next season, it'll be interesting to see what carries over and the future holds.






I suspected Kane would score in Game 3.


However, he also had an opportunity to force overtime in the final seconds.


And, he was hammered into the bounds in an eerily similar fashion to the hit he took which ended his regular season.


Make no mistake, Jonathan ToewsMarian Hossa and Brandon Saad are not going to offensively lead Chicago through this round on their own. The onus is on Kane, and to a lesser extent, Patrick Sharp.


So far, Sharp is pointless, and Kane has the single tally. Plus, the previously mentioned trio has only generated one goal themselves.


Suddenly the offensively dangerous and gifted Hawks have to be looking in the mirror and wondering how they can generate more offense. Especially considering they've dominated the possession battle in Game 1 and Game 3, according to Corsi events.






In no way am I interested in initiating an advanced stats debate. After all the hockey adage "Get pucks on net," is essentially the Corsi slogan.


However, during Rangers-Lightning Game 2, Matt Carle attempted a shot when dumping the puck into the corner was the smart play. Physics have proven time and time again that a solid doesn't pass through another solid, and it seems likely a nightly event that a power-play shot block results in a scoring chance going the other way.


That was a particular example I noted and tweeted.


But with the way defenders are collapsing back towards their own goal, and their willingness to shot block, a shot attempt shouldn't always be viewed as a plus.


Returning to Chicago-Anaheim, how often do Ryan GetzlafCorey Perry and Patrick Maroon pass up a shot to maintain the cycle in an attempt to improve their scoring chance or shot quality?






Briefly back to the Kane goal, I was throwing a lacrosse ball around earlier this week, and the backhand whipping motion reminded me of the skill set Kane utilized.


It is no wonder John Tavares is so deadly.






Marian Hossa will be well within my bust territory for the 2015-16 season.


His 0.74 points per game this year were his lowest total since the 1999-00 season, and he'll turn 37 midseason. He has also lost a step, according to my eye test.


Either his shiftiness or puck skills are holding him back in one-on-one situations, and he is no longer the threat off the rush he once was. Plus, as he ages and loses steps, his defensive abilities will be leaned on more predominantly.


It may not be a drastic regression next season, but unless you're adding him well into the middle rounds of drafts, there is no upside. He only scored 22 goals this season, after all.


Plus, expect a revamped Blackhawks lineup due to their potential cap issues. Hossa isn't a fixture on their No. 1 power-play unit, either.


This isn't to say Hossa should be avoided at all costs, because health permitting, 50 points with solid peripheral stats are a lock. Instead, note that it is ill-advised to chase past production unless it comes at a discount, and this is more important with seasoned vets.


Fantasy sports are all about maximizing your upside while mitigating your risks. There will come a point in every draft where Hossa's value can be a security blanket to compensate for earlier risky selections or create an opportunity to chase potential late-round difference makers.


It is usually foolish to compare teams, but the Blackhawks could have a fallback season similar to the 2014-15 Boston Bruins next year, although, it will likely be less drastic.






My Mike Babcock to Toronto silence breaks here.


The most interesting Babcock quote in my books was his, "There is pain coming."




Where have you been, bud?


As a Leafs fan, I'm going to take this opportunity to share my thoughts.


Infrastructure is important, and there shouldn't be organizational road bumps going forward. Everything suggests there is a unified plan and process. This is important.


It is important because there are no false impressions which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Patience has been prescribed.


So, where and when Babcock has a substantial difference is somewhat irrelevant at this stage. He has taken his retirement position in the Mecca of hockey, and after a lengthy coaching career, he has advanced the profession to a new level financially.


$50 million clams and an empty nest … this was a career and life decision first and foremost. Don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.


Hockey wasn't part of the equation, and it had little to do with the decision process, because Babcock knows nothing before his tenure as the Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach matters to his legacy.


The fans aren't going anywhere, and the "cup process" for "Canada's team" is now under his watch.


Many will suggest the Maple Leafs are inherently doomed, and that is fine.


However, as a Chicago Cubs fan, I suggest you take the time to check out how a proper rebuild with the right front office team can impact a franchise.





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