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Thursday, February 26, 2009

VAN, DET & NYR at (roughly) Game 60

Some observations from the (roughly) Game 60 mark...

Vancouver Canucks: After a nightmarish 2-5-5 January, the Canucks bounced back in a big way, going 8-2-0 in their last ten games to climb back into the thick of the playoff hunt (note: We at OGA have never wavered from our original call of 'Chasing Stanley' on November 20th, but we were a bit concerned at the end of January). There is certainly much to cheer about at GM Place: Luongo has regained his pre-injury form, Sundin has played himself into game shape, and the Canucks have scoring threats distributed throughout the lineup (8 players have 10+ goals). Scoring is up in Vancouver, from 2.84 G/gm (15th) at Game 50 to 2.97 G/gm (T-8th) at Game 60.
Not all is well, however: Since topping out at 82.6% efficiency (11th in the NHL) at Game 30, the Canucks' PK has steadily declined. At Game 60, they're only killing 79.0% (25th) of penalties. And, while Vancouver is improving, their win pct. when leading after 2 periods is .857, which is 19th in the league. In fact, when looking at ten statistical categories (G/gm, GAA, PP, PK, Sh/gm, Shots Against/gm, Win % when scoring 1st, Win % when trailing 1st, Win % when leading after 2, and Faceoff Win %), the Canucks only rank in the top ten in two - G/gm and Faceoff Win %. This doesn't bode well for Vancouver's Stanley Cup aspirations.

Detroit Red Wings: 7-2-1 in the run-up to Game 60...Scoring seemingly at will, 3.70 G/gm (1st)...Five players with 20+ goals...Ranked in the top FIVE in 7 of 10 statistical categories, including 1st in PP (27.8%), Sh/gm (36.0) and Faceoff % (55.8)...The Winged Wheel rolls on...
But there are weaknesses: At 77.5%, the PK is 28th in the NHL...Team GAA of 2.92 is 19th...Win pct. when leading after 2 is .867, tied (with San Jose, no less) for 17th. It's going to take a team with an agile yet bruising blueline corps and a red-hot goalie to beat DET in a seven-game series, but the Red Wings are beatable...sort of.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts took full advantage of a hot (13-5-2) start, OT and Shootout wins to get this far, but the wheels have now come off...2-6-2 in Games 51-60, followed by an OT loss at home to the Toronto Maple Loafs, cost Coach Tom Renney his job. His replacement, John Tortorella, is 0-1-1 and counting. At Game 60, the Rangers were scoring just 2.33 G/gm (29th). Their 28th-ranked PP (14.0%) would be laughable if they hadn't allowed more shorthanded goals (13) than any other team (Your trivia for the day: The Rangers are the ONLY team in the NHL this season to allow a shortie with a 2-man advantage). Bonus trivia: At Game 60, the Rangers' +/- leader was Zherdev, at +1, followed by Callahan and Anisimov, at 0. Every other Blueshirt is a minus.
If there's any hope to be found, it's in the recent past: Last season, Dallas went 2-7-2 in March, then regrouped and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Ranger fans have to hope their team can duplicate that feat, and as long as New York occupies a playoff spot, there's hope...

More Game 60 reviews coming soon!

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