ATD2010 Jim Robson Semi-Final: Smith's Falls Fusiliers (2) vs. Montreal Shamrocks (3)
The Jim Robson Division Semi-Final Round:
Smith's Falls Fusiliers
coach Dick Irvin, Sr.
Syd Howe - Nels Stewart - Rod Gilbert
Patrik Elias - Bryan Trottier (A) - Didier Pitre
Johnny Gottselig (A) - Bob Pulford - Floyd Curry
Rabbit McVeigh - Troy Murray - Boris Mayorov
Ulf Nilsson , Milan Hejduk
Brian Leetch (C) - Lionel Conacher
Vladimir Lutchenko - Gennady Tsygankov
Dollard St. Laurent - Sandis Ozolinsh
coach Tommy Gorman
Ted Lindsay (A) - Bobby Clarke (C) - Daniel Alfredsson
Woody Dumart - Elmer Lach (A) - Bill Mosienko
Smokey Harris - Tommy Dunderdale - Harry Oliver
Harry Westwick - Kris Draper - Stan Smyl
Tom Lysiak - Jimmy Gardner
Alexander Ragulin - Cy Wentworth
Allan Stanley - Wally Stanowski
Art Duncan - Bucko McDonald
Exploit slower defensemen. Smith’s Falls will need to focus their attack on Stanley and Ragulin, who were both described as relatively poor skaters. A rush led by Leetch, Elias and Pitre (i.e. the Fusiliers second line and top defense pair) would feature three of the fastest skaters of their era and could cause serious problems for Montreal. Smith may face more than his fare share of odd-man rushes. As a mitigating factor, Steward was a slow forward, so Smith’s Falls can’t use their first line to exploit this weakness.
Advantage in net. Regardless of if you evaluate goalies by wins and Stanley Cups or personal stats and save percentage, Bower ranks extremely well. He matches Smith in terms of playoff success (and, for what it’s worth, won a retro Smythe) and easily beats him in personal success, leading the league in save percentage four times in his career.
Third line. Montreal’s third line isn’t great defensively, as Chaos admitted in the previous series. Smith’s Fall has home ice advantage, so they can have control in putting either one of their dangerous scoring lines against this trio. Dunderdale, the best player on the third line, was known for his offense and physical play. In many series, that would be a big advantage, however he’ll be outmatched in both regards by both Stewart and Trottier.
HOW MONTREAL WINS
First lines. VanIslander has shown us that it isn’t impossible to build a great team around Nels Stewart, a dominant player with a unique set of perceived weaknesses (like Dionne or Esposito) that makes it tough to use them as the centerpiece of a team. Smith’s Falls top line, objectively, is great, but is outmatched in this particular series. Stewart is a bit better offensively than Clarke, but he’s regarded as one of the worst defensive stars in NHL history, while Clarke is one of the best. Although Howe’s versatility and two-way play helps mitigate this weakness, he’s no match for Linday.
Westwick. Numerous sources indicate that Westwick was one of the most annoying, scrappy, tenacious pests of his era. Who will he harass this series? He might be most effective against Trottier, one of hockey’s greatest competitors, who may be prone to retaliating and taking stupid penalties.
Ozolinsh. I realize that, as his sixth defenseman, his icetime will be limited, but I don’t see him faring well in a very physical, aggressive series like this. How much of Lindsay-Clarke can he take?
Is anyone else looking forward to seeing a Clarke-Trottier bloodbath? (Or Stewart-Ragulin? Lindsay-Lutchenko? The possibilities are endless.)
Both teams have a Selke winning centre on the fourth line. They’ll certainly have their work cut out for them, as both teams have a Top-100 player centring both of the top two lines.
Should be a great series. Unfortunately, I'm leaving for North Carolina tomorrow morning, and may not have computer access while I'm gone. Will try to get some comments in tonight, but there's a chance I wont be able to respond to any of yours VI.