Bob Cole Divisional Quarterfinals: Ak Bars vs. Pittsburgh
AK BARS KAZAN
АК БАРС КАЗАНЬ
Coach: Toe Blake
Captain: Sprague Cleghorn
Alternate Captains: Zdeno Chara, Eric Desjardins, Mike Modano
#26 Mats Naslund - #10 Jean Ratelle - #68 Jaromir Jagr
#7 Vic Stasiuk - #9 Mike Modano (A) - #33 Zigmund Palffy
#8 Johnny Wilson - #18 Walt Tkaczuk - #16 Eric Nesterenko
#25 Dave Andreychuk - #15 Bobby Smith - #17 Mike Foligno
#4 Bob Davidson
#14 Barney Stanley
#12 Tom Lysiak
#3 Zdeno Chara (A) - #2 Sprague Cleghorn (C)
#5 Mike Ramsey - #37 Eric Desjardins (A)
#6 Calle Johansson - #23 Petr Svoboda
#44 Alexei Zhitnik
i don't think it will really be possible for cleghorn and lalonde to never be on the ice simultaneously, and i don't think it makes much sense to keep my top d-men away from pittsburgh's top scorers, so chara and cleghorn will play against pittsburgh's 1st line.
cleghorn and lalonde clashed many times, often violently, and i expect they will be in the penalty box often. i just hope toe blake can keep cleghorn from going over the edge. toe blake was also a hothead, though.
i have said this before, but lalonde was also a very dirty and highly penalized player. i am not sure why, but i think eddie shore and sprague cleghorn are unfairly criticized more than other comparable dirty players for their reckless play.
pittsburgh is a very fast team, and the F's who are not especially fast were very dangerous scorers: bossy, lalonde (i am not at all sure how fast lalonde was, though). pittsburgh d-men are also as a group strong in transition, so the bankers are very dangerous in a counterattack or on the rush. i do not want to play a risky up and down game with pittsburgh. i want to play a more methodical cycling game to make the bankers play in their own end and to reduce their chances in counterattacking.
i think pittsburgh's strength is its F's more than its blueline, and i think my team should be able to establish a cycle.
it is probably more accurate to say that pittsburgh's strength is its offense more than its D. in addition to their powerful top F's, their scoring depth is good and their d-men are strong in transition and dangerous in the offensive zone.
i think my main advantage in this series is that i have a better blueline. i want my top 2 d-pairs to defend pittsburgh's top 2 lines.
primary matchup i want is cleghorn and chara against lalonde and bossy. other than cleghorn's proclivity to violence and penalties, i think he and chara are well suited to defending lalonde and bossy. cleghorn and chara are big and very physical, and i don't think chara's relative lack of agility will be a big problem against them, as i don't think either lalonde or bossy is particularly fast.
my approach to forward matchups is based more on zones.
all my C's played both ways, and other than bobby smith, were known for their 2 way games. i think my C's in combination with my d-men form effective defensive units. modano and ratelle were also both fast.
tkaczuk or sometimes modano will take most defensive zone faceoffs against lalonde. jagr will not be out for many defensive zone faceoffs, but will be out for a large share of offensive zone faceoffs. ratelle is not a defensive problem, so he can sometimes take defensive zone faceoffs when needed separate from jagr.
of my d-men, only johansson could be described as undersized, and he was not small. i think my defensive players' combination of size, reach and physicality (cleghorn chara and ramsey, plus some of my F's) will give me good control of the middle area of the defensive zone where most scoring occurs. control of that area is always an important issue.
jagr and andreychuk are more or less defensive liabilities. but to some extent, those problems are reduced b/c jagr tended to control the play with his puck possession game, and andreychuk will not play much at ES.
I think this is a good match-up and the squads are well matched, but this series certaintly has a feel of being one of those series were the 8th seeded teams knocks off a number 1 seed. I like and respect Nik Jr assesment, but I think the bankers being the faster and better offensive team should lead them to victory. Bower will see a lot of shots from all 4 of the Bankers line and there defense in Niedermayor, Cameron, Shore will provide plenty of spark from the back end. The Bankers are no slouches defensively either with One of the best defensive forwards and defensemen in Gainey & Konstantinov. I think Esposito will be great in net for the Bankers as well. I think the Bankers can win this series in 6 or 7 games.
how well will lalonde and bossy mesh? although both were good playmakers, both were primarily goalscorers.
it is hard to say about lalonde, who played before the forward pass, and in a time when assists were rarely recorded. he was one of only a few players who led the NHL in goals, assists and points in the same season (1919). i think only 99, 66, phil esposito, gordie howe, morenz and lalonde have done that (only the greatest offensive players), so it is a great accomplishment.
jagr was close to the trifecta but finished 2nd in goals in '99.
who will defend jagr? gainey would be the best option at F, but he is playing with 2 weaker defensive players.
how are pittsburgh's PP and PK set up? they are not in the roster thread.
both teams have players who were physical and took many penalties. cleghorn, chara, ramsey, nesterenko, stasiuk, foligno, smith on my side, and for pittsburgh, lalonde, konstantinov, russell, wilson, walsh.
obviously, many of those penalties were fights and other penalties that did not create PP's, but special teams are important.
Jagr will take extended PP shifts, with Naslund replacing him.
Tkaczuk - Nesterenko
Chara - Ramsey
Modano - Wilson
Cleghorn - Desjardins
other PKers: Johansson, Svoboda, Ratelle, Palffy, Smith, Davidson, Stanley, Lysiak
my 1st PP is based around 6'4 andreychuk at the crease for garbage, deflections and screens. he will draw a defender, and should give jagr and ratelle more space around the circles and for passes through the box. cleghorn was a good passer, but i think was known more for his shot, so i think desjardins would probably be a better PP QB.
chara is not a bona fide QB, so the F's are the primary puckhandlers. i think palffy and naslund are well suited to that. chara's shot is an important weapon, though, and i think may be especially effective against esposito, b/c (according to stan mikita) esposito had some trouble seeing long shots.
OTOH, bobby hull said in 2010 (and probably also before 2010) that my 3rd liner nesterenko was at fault on lemaire's goal for retreating to his own blueline instead of picking up lemaire.