Laperriere - Park
Seiling - Cameron
Johansson - Ludwig
#9 Johnny Bucyk - #10 Syl Apps Sr. (C) - #6 Ron Ellis
#8 Syd Howe (A) - #5 Frank Foyston - #18 Mark Recchi
#4 Bob Davidson - #21 Guy Carbonneau (A) - #6 Marian Hossa
#20 Dave Balon - #12 Tom Lysiak - #15 John MacLean
#2 Jacques Laperriere - #22 Brad Park (A)
#16 Rod Seiling- #11 Harry Cameron
#3 Calle Johansson - #17 Craig Ludwig
#1 Georges Vezina
#31 Mike Liut
#25 Barry Pederson
#26 Don Awrey
#44 Stephane Richer
#13 Sergei Nemchinov - #14 Syl Apps Jr - #31 Viktor Shalimov
#28 Kjell Samuelsson - #22 Jeff Brown
#1 Viktor Zinger
Wow, this is a tough matchup to face in the first round. I really like your team, nik, so it's going to be hard to go against you. That said, I think I have a pretty good team myself.
I have a change to my PP unit. The top unit will be
and the second unit will be
Primeau is excellent on faceoffs and adds a big body in front of the net to my first unit, with Crosby working off the right half-boards and Kharlamov on the left. The second unit is a little unusual, with three right wingers at forward, but it should work. Palffy will be the main creator on the right side, Gilbert is a shooter on his off-wing, and Nolan works in front of the net and down low. Nolan can also take faceoffs - he's taken over 3000 draws since 1998 when the NHL began tracking them, and won 49%. The point men remain the same.
I'll have more to come later, but until then, here's something to think about. While nik has a strong team, Hasek over Vezina is a pretty major advantage. In his prime, Hasek allowed about 30% fewer goals per shot than the average goaltender. Vezina's better than the average NHL goaltender, but even so the Grand Rapids skaters will have to outplay Renfrew by quite a bit just to draw even in goals.
I think Grand Rapids and Renfrew are both fairly well balanced teams. I don't see much to attack on Grand Rapids. My plan is to keep the scoring chances close and then Hasek can make the difference.
While I'm not sure this is the best way to compare teams, I'll compare units against units because it's easy.
Kharlamov-Fedorov-Gilbert vs Bucyk-Apps-Recchi
Your top line is solid. Apps is just terrific. Bucyk and Recchi have some similarities – both were good even-strength scorers in their younger days and then reinvented themselves as power play stars in their 30s. Neither is anything special on a #1 ATD line at even strength, but both can support Apps well.
Kharlamov is a game-breaking offensive talent, especially freed from Tarasov’s system. Fedorov will provide excellent defensive play and transition, supporting Kharlamov perfectly, and he has the speed and skill to keep up offensively. Fedorov will also thrive as the unquestioned #1 centre – his best season came in 1993-94 when Yzerman missed time, and he always resented being used as the jack-of-all-trades by Bowman while Yzerman got the #1 centre minutes. Here he’s the man at centre, with the minutes and the linemates to thrive. He's also known for bringing it in the playoffs. Rod Gilbert is a fine complement, with his speed and finishing ability. While none of these three are classic physical players, none are shrinking violets either. They'll beat you with speed and skill.
Elias-Crosby-Palffy vs Howe-Foyston-Hossa
Foyston and Crosby are both the focal points of their lines, and both have played well in the playoffs as team leaders. I think Crosby’s playoff accomplishments are a little more impressive coming in a far deeper era for talent, but Foyston does have a longevity edge.
Your second line is very solid defensively, but mine isn’t too bad either.
I question Hossa’s scoring ability at even strength to play on an ATD 2nd line. All of his big scoring seasons since 2003-04 have included a ton of points on the power play. He’s never been a top-10 scorer at even strength, and is significantly worse than Palffy as an even strength scorer.
In contrast, Elias is at his best at even strength. His even strength scoring numbers are solid, and his plus-minus is excellent. Howe is hard to compare, but as I see it his main selling points are his versatility and durability. I’ve read that he played big minutes in all situations, which speaks to his all-around play, but in the context of your team he won’t have nearly as much opportunity to put up points.
Carbonneau is a great start for a third line. I like Ellis as well. Davidson seems a little scoring challenged to be a top-9 forward.
My third line wingers, Bourne and Armstrong, were both great playoff scorers on dynasties. Armstrong actually led the 62-64 Leafs in playoff scoring, and Bourne was third in forward scoring on the Isles, behind only Bossy and Trottier. Primeau doesn’t have the same playoff credentials, but he’s playing as a #3 centre instead of the #1 role he played for much of his career. He’s in a role similar to the one he played for Team Canada in 98 or for Philadelphia in 03/04, and he’s in a position to do well.
None of my 3rd line forwards are top-end defensive players, but all are good to very good, and they all have great size. Bourne’s a phenomenal skater, Primeau can cover a lot of ground quickly, and Armstrong is a fair skater – he gets a bad rap for his late-career play after multiple knee injuries.
Faceoffs are also a strength of my line. Primeau was an elite faceoff man through his career, and he can be aggressive knowing that Bourne will step in if he’s thrown out of the circle. Carbonneau is also excellent, but having Bourne available may give Renfrew an edge.
I like my fourth line, but there’s not much difference here, IMO. I think Shadrin can step into a 2nd or 3rd line role easily if necessary, but fourth lines rarely make the difference.
Power Play - Grand Rapids
Bucyk-Apps-Foyston-Cameron-Park and Recchi-Howe-Hossa-Laperriere-Johansson
Howe-Fedorov-Ramsey-Kasatonov-Hasek, Bourne-Shadrin-Griffis-Numminen-Hasek, and Primeau, Armstrong, Elias, Gagne, and Egan will also see time depending on who is fresh and who is in the box.
I have to admit you have a terrific power play. I noted that Bucyk, Recchi, and Hossa were all more PP than ES scorers at their best, and that's to your benefit on the PP. I think you are lacking a dangerous point shot on the second unit - Laperriere was taken off the Montreal 1st unit early in his career because he didn't have a quick release on his shot.
However, I think I have an excellent penalty kill to match up with your power play. Hasek is the best penalty killer on either team. Howe and Fedorov are a terrific combination of smarts, skill, and speed at the forward position. Ramsey, Kasatonov, and Griffis have great defensive skill, size, and strength to keep the front of the net clear. Bourne, Shadrin, Primeau, Armstrong, Elias, and Gagne can also kill penalties, with Bourne and Shadrin as the second forward pair, so I'll always have fresh legs out there. Shadrin is most famous in Russia for an epic 2-minute 5-on-3 penalty kill against Czechoslovakia, and should do well here also.
Power Play - Renfrew
Some may have questions about Primeau on my first unit. I’ll say in his defence that Scotty Bowman played him on Detroit’s first unit in the 1995 playoffs, on a team with a ton of talent. He was there for exactly the same role – to win faceoffs and create havoc in front of the net, clearing room for his highly skilled teammates to work. Bowman said later that Detroit lost the final when Primeau went down to injury, because his ability to win faceoffs and give them puck possession on the power play was so vital.
Howe and Fedorov are both great skaters and will allow Renfrew to gain the zone easily. They won't allow many shorthanded chances against, and Fedorov’s big shot is dangerous from the point. Kharlamov and Crosby have the high-end skill to break down the defence and create chances.
Nolan is taking faceoffs on the second unit. He should do fine - he has taken over 3000 faceoffs over the last decade since the NHL tracked them, a third of them while shorthanded (which are more difficult to win), and has won 49%. Palffy and Gilbert will be the main creators on the second unit, Egan brings his shot which was the hardest of his time, and Griffis will be strong in skating the puck up and moving the puck.
Your team, like mine, is deep in penalty killers, which will help keep fresh legs out there. Carbonneau is excellent, Ludwig is probably at his best here, but it's not a top PK without a top goaltender.
Clearly the voters thought Grand Rapids had a better group of skaters than Renfrew, going by the regular season. I can't say that Renfrew's skaters are better, but I think they are very close. With guys who step it up in the playoffs like Fedorov, Crosby, Armstrong, and Bourne, and with Hasek in goal, I think we should win this.
And now I'll say a little more about Renfrew's major advantage - Dominik Hasek. I think most people agree that Hasek was the greatest regular season goalie of all time. However, he was very good in the playoffs as well. During his incredible six-year peak from 1993-94 to 1998-99 he had a save percentage of 0.933 in the playoffs. This was the best of any goalie who played 30+ games, and better than his regular season mark of 0.930 over this time.
While Hasek wasn't as good after his groin injury in 2000, he still had a SV% of 0.927 in the playoffs from 1994 to 2007.
Hasek was also a clutch goalie in the playoffs, despite playing on weak teams for most of his career. This blog conducted a study using game-by-game Hockey Summary Project data comparing the playoff clutch play of Hasek, Roy, Brodeur, Belfour, and Joseph from 1994 to 2008. Here are some of the results for Hasek:
First two periods: GAA of 2.11, SV% of 0.920
3rd period and OT: GAA of 1.77, SV% of 0.935
3rd period and OT that began tied or within one goal: 0.939 SV%
Hasek had the best 3rd/OT SV% and the best close and late SV% of the group.
Here are some more results from the study.
When Hasek's team was up entering the 3rd, he was 16-2, with a 0.970 SV%! This was far better than the other 4 goalies.
He was 15-22 in tied games entering the 3rd, with a 0.915 SV%. His record in these situations was worse than Roy or Belfour, similar to Brodeur, and better than Joseph. His SV% was 3rd, behind Belfour and Joseph.
He was 14-13 in OT, with a 1.75 GAA and an 0.939 save percentage. Only Roy and Belfour had better records, and Roy's was driven by great goal support in OT.
When down by one goal after 2 periods, Hasek was 8-9 with a save percentage of 0.955! No other goalie came close to his success in these situations.
Overall, Hasek had a better clutch playoff record than Roy, Brodeur, Belfour, and Joseph from 1994 to 2008. Only Belfour was close.
Laperriere - Park Seiling - Cameron
Johansson - Ludwig
seiling is a better skater than ludwig, so his speed will be better able to defend the counterattacks of the speedy renfrew F's, if and when cameron gets caught in the offensive zone.
hossa has played most of his career with mediocre C's, and, imo, plays about as well regardless of his C, so i don't think it is a significant problem. hossa also gives my 3rd line more scoring ability.
this allows certain match-ups i want:
ellis vs kharlamov
in the '72 series, ellis played a key role in shutting down kharlamov. after ellis was assigned to shadow kharlamov, kharlamov only scored 1g. ellis has the defensive awareness, speed and physicality to defend kharlamov.
Originally Posted by Bobby Clarke
I think we won because (Ron) Ellis shut him down. I think Kharlamov only scored one goal after the second game. It wasn't like he was killing us. Everybody talks about (Paul) Henderson but not enough people realize Henderson doesn't even get those chances if it's not for Ellis' defensive play.
ellis will play as much as any of my RW's in this series. i don't think i will lose much scoring. ellis played in imlach's very rigid defensive system, but was one of the better goal scorers during his career.
goals from '65 (ellis' rookie season) to '75 (when ellis retired for 2 seasons)
gilbert: 306g (8th)
ellis: 276g (11th)
gilbert was in his prime during that whole period (age 23 to 33). gilbert had many more assists than ellis in that period, and was clearly a better offensive player, but the ellis can play on a scoring line.
if renfrew wants fedorov to check apps, ellis will also check kharlamov.
i will want my top pair and top line against renfrew's top line.
carbo vs crosby
carbo made his reputation shutting down the deepest field of great C's in history.
in the '08 and '09 finals, zetterberg shut down crosby. carbonneau is an even better defensive F than zetterberg, and is a better skater. crosby will not be able to outskate carbo. carbo was not a very physical player, but neither is zetterberg.
carbo is also a right handed shooter, which will make it easier to stick check the left shooting crosby.
making up the goalie gap
i tend to think hasek is the best goalie ever. he is a very large advantage for renfrew.
my team will have to limit renfrew's chances. some reasons why i think that is possible:
pat burns gave his teams strong team D. burns' teams had reduced shots against, reduced shot quailty against and better control of the neutral zone. renfrew is a fast team, so it is important to reduce their speed through the neutral zone.
i think my D corps is better, and most of my F's were defensively responsible.
part of burns defensive strategy was shot blocking. many of my players were noted shot blockers: ludwig, carbonneau, laperriere, seiling, park.
below the hash marks
to beat hasek, dirty goals are very important.
i think my team will be more effective on the cycle and around the net. bucyk, balon, maclean and recchi were all very effective in those areas, and my other F's are all willing to play in those hard areas.
bucyk is especially important on PP down low and around the net. he was one of the best garbage goal scorers in history. he was big and very hard to move, but also had great hands.
greater ability to cycle means more time in the offensive zone, less time in the defensive zone, and more PP's.
A couple of notes on the matchups I'm looking for:
I'll put my first line out against anyone, anywhere. I want them to get as much ice time as possible, and they are fine in any situation. I don't want matchups to dictate their ice time. But if they end up going against the Apps line, I'm fine with that. Fedorov vs Apps is a perfect matchup against my opponent's best offensive weapon, and my wingers are faster and more skilled.
My third line will also see time against my opponent's first line, and are my best option for defensive zone faceoffs. With their size and defensive ability they are ideal to defend against the cycle, win the puck, and move it out of the zone. They have the offensive ability to create chances and score, but if nothing else they will give my scoring lines a chance to start the shift out of our end and hopefully in our opponent's end.
Carbonneau against Crosby is admittedly not an ideal matchup for my team. I'd prefer to have Crosby's line go against the Foyston line. But even if Crosby is against Carbonneau, he has far better wingers than he had against Zetterberg. You can't focus on shutting Crosby down and leave Elias and Palffy free.
Finally, as to nik's point about playing on the cycle or around the net - while his forwards are well suited to play that game, my defence corps is well suited to defend against it. I don't have any weak defenders, and have good size, strength, and smarts on the back end in general. My centres have good defensive skill and awareness as a group as well.
I plan to have my Howe-Kasatonov taking most of the minutes against the Apps line and playing big minutes in general. My second pairing will play in more offensive situations and my third in more defensive situations, although either will be OK in any situation.
laperriere's career started in '64. on a per game basis, he is actually 2nd to pilote.
PP points per game
pilote: .2546 laperriere: .1875
surprisingly, tremblay and laperriere scored basically the same number of points every season until '71. even though laperriere is younger than tremblay, he outscored tremblay in his 1st and 2nd seasons.
calle johansson was also not a great offensive threat, but like laperriere, he had good offensive ability and made smart decisions. unless i am mistaken, johansson was on the 1st unit for most his his career.
Thanks for a great series, nik. Your team was one of my absolute favourites in the draft, so it wasn't easy going against you. I would have been OK with the series going either way, but I'm happy that the voters chose my team (by what appears to have been a razor thin margin).