Gameday Preview: Buildings made of mirrors

Robert Cleave
January 20 2011 10:49PM

              

 

Every year, a team rides some nice percentages to a high finish that no one expected. Boston in 08/09, the Avs last season, it happens. This year, tonight's opponent is the team that looks like it might be fortune's darling. 

 

That isn't to imply that Dallas is bereft of talent or incapable of terrific play as much as I'm not quite convinced that they'd do much better than Colorado managed in last year's post season. That's still a ways off, of course, and in the here and now, they're riding a lengthy hot streak to the top of the Pacific and a high seed.

 

I normally start these previews with a look at the opposition forwards, but for all the scoring that their top six musters, it's really goaltending that makes this outfit tick. Kari Lehtonen, as I mentioned on the last occasion that these teams met, is a fine goalie with a history of sloth and being injury prone. He's shown neither of those traits since arriving in Texas. His .934 EVSV% is the sort of number that his talent has hinted was possible, and he's made it through the first 60 percent of the year without a major injury.

 

As a result, the Stars have posted a healthy goal differential despite being pretty roundly outshot. Lehtonen played in Dallas' 4-2 win over the Oil, so it's possible that the Flames might see the rejuvenated Andrew Raycroft, who's posted an even gaudier .940 EVSV% in his 13 outings. Goalies that stop the puck. Sigh.

 

               

 

The Stars can finish, of course, with Brad Richards in the middle of a very nice season that will make him an even wealthier man soon enough. He's on course for a career year in terms of points, but as good as he is, he's really benefiting from a concerted effort on Marc Crawford's part to give he, James Neal and Loui Eriksson every advantage in terms of competition. The three of them are also riding the bounces. Richards has the lowest PDO of the trio at 104.9.

 

Beyond the vagaries of chance, this approach works for Crow because he has a few hard minutes players at his disposal. Mike Ribeiro is still the most likely center to face good players under duress, and the addition of Jamie Langenbrunner to the roster was a pretty shrewd play on Joe Nieuwendyk's part to shore up his top six. Jamie Benn looks the heir apparent to Ribeiro in terms of tough minutes down the line, and he's hardly made a misstep since making the team out of the Dub last season. The contrast between his sure-footed arrival in the league and the play of his Rockets teammate on the Flames' roster, well, sigh, part two.

 

               

 

If the Stars have a clear deficiency, it's still on the blue. Robidas, Daley and Grossman are pretty decent back there, but after those three the fall off is quite abrupt in terms of ability, and it's the one spot where Dallas could use one more guy. If they could extract someone like Chris Phillips for a reasonable price, that might be enough to get them past the first round, and after that, who knows?

 

When these teams met in December, the Flames played about as good a game as they're capable of, winning in a shootout and badly outchancing the Stars along the way. The recent shellacking that Calgary took from Minny has soured most people on the club, with good reason, and the Flames looked so completely defeated after Wednesday that I suspect most would write this game off. If the Flames have a sniff, it'll be because of good work by the bottom six, a better night from Iggy et al, and maybe, just maybe, a save or two from whoever Sutter puts in net. 

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 FireOnIce
January 20 2011, 11:59PM
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Can't forget Brendan Morrow, who's having himself a nice little season as well. Especially seeing as he has been skating primarily (pretty sure) with Krys Barch (who?) and Steve "I'm not Sean Avery but I can scratch eyes too" Ott.

Since the Flames can't score anyways, Lehtonen or Raycroft will do them just fine. Hell, call someone up, give those two the night off, and the callup would likely pitch a shutout.

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#2 Kent Wilson
January 21 2011, 08:13AM
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Especially seeing as he has been skating primarily (pretty sure) with Krys Barch (who?) and Steve "I'm not Sean Avery but I can scratch eyes too" Ott.

Up until recently, Morrow was skating with Ribeiro and Benn.

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#3 Kent Wilson
January 21 2011, 08:23AM
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And to further illustrate Bob's point, the Oilers were the better possession and chance team last night despite losing. The Oilers.

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#4 otto
January 21 2011, 09:35AM
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Lets win one for the Kipper!

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#5 Rain Dogs
January 21 2011, 09:54AM
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"Kari Lehtonen... is a fine goalie with a history of sloth and being injury prone. He's shown neither of those traits since arriving in Texas. His .934 EVSV% is the sort of number that his talent has hinted was possible."

Lehtonen has always been pretty darn good (ev):

0.927, 0.926, 0.925, 0.923, 0.921, 0.934

It's stepped up a notch now, but playing on a much better team (DAL vs ATL) will help that a little. Hell, Raycroft has a .940evsv%! as you pointed out.

"Goalies that stop the puck. Sigh."

I'll keep beating this drum ad infinitum, playing on a quality team helps goalies... playing on a crappy team, doesn't.

Seriously, people like to point of the "decline" of Kipper... what about the "decline" into the basement of this WHOLE TEAM???? When has CAL ever honestly been elite or a contender since the lockout?

Or... will we NOW, start arguing that goaltending IS responsible for that. That if we JUST had Lehtonen we'd be in fourth? HA! Could he be out #1 centre as well?

Calgary: Kipper ev: .909, Karlsson: .903 Dallas: Lehtonen ev: .934, Raycroft: .940 Boston: Thomas ev: .949, Rask: .932 Colorado: Anderson ev: .918, Budaj: .914

Notice how consistent it is? We can go around the whole league, and there are outliers, (like Miikka is usually... don't know why he's where he is today) but generally the average of two goalies ev sv % is quite indicative of how the team is playing defensively. I mean, what happened to Anderson (the most underrated goalie in the universe?... yeah right - .912 career evsv%)

We're all frustrated, but let's not lose our grip on reality, based on five games and two entirely different levels of teams. Otherwise, we should be talking about Raycroft's return to the elite as much as we should Thomas'

And that's just laughable.

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#6 Kent Wilson
January 21 2011, 10:31AM
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I'll keep beating this drum ad infinitum, playing on a quality team helps goalies... playing on a crappy team, doesn't. Seriously, people like to point of the "decline" of Kipper... what about the "decline" into the basement of this WHOLE TEAM???? When has CAL ever honestly been elite or a contender since the lockout?

Well then Lawrence what the hell is the point of paying for goaltenders? If an "elite" goalie follows his team down the rabbit hole when they decline, he isn't really worth a damn is he? If Dallas can turn Raycroft into a .940 goaltender through some sort of voodoo, but the Flames can turn Kipper into a mediocre one, then pretty much everything - everything - resides in coaching and quality of skaters, right?

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#7 Rain Dogs
January 21 2011, 11:20AM
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@Kent Wilson

What the hell is the point of paying any defender?

Of the 17 cap teams in the NHL, what teams have the best win%? Those that spend over 40% on the back end, or those who spend under, keeping in mind it's effectively only 6 or 7 prioritized out of 19 players? I've calculated it, but I'll save you the time, just look at the standings. (Hint: PHI, VAN, NYR, BOS, DET, PIT... whereas NSH, DAL, PHO, TB don't spend to the cap, yet TB upgraded goaltending first even though they are constrained by budget.)

Offence wins everything in the new NHL right?

A goalie, is ONE player amongst 19 on the ice. Why do you always want to isolate that one player so much? You like increasing their significance?

What is the point of paying the third line LW? Isolated. Let's say it's Hagman @ 3 million, as an individual.... not as a line-mate.

Your argument always hinges on the value of forwards... "they win the game" and from that extrapolate that "goalies aren't worth a damn." If two defenders can play half the game, and a 1million goalie is just as good? Why aren't teams spending 80% of their budget on forwards? Why do cap teams that choose less on the back-end, win less?

Yet you never answer my question about defenders. What's the value of a defender?

Kiprusoff has a .925 ev sv% in Calgary. 5th highest since the lockout (excluding 03/04 when he was pretty darn valuable as an individual). I can easily illustrate how that translates into wins over Karlsson or McL. Why he gets paid.

So, if you believe everything - everything - resides in coaching and quality of skaters.

Do the same for Iggy. (I'll start you with an easy one)

Then do it for Reggie. Or Jbo. Or Babchuk.

Or do it for Sutter. vs Keenan. vs Playfair.

Cause it's easy to do right? Just as easy as with Kiprusoff, right... cause everything - everything - resides in them as individuals.

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#8 John Deere Green
January 21 2011, 12:08PM
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While I am enjoying reading the comments from Kent and Lawrence about goaltenders, Kipper is not the reason for the Flames being brutal this season. He may be a small part of many problems on this squad, but there are huge issues with this team in regards to NTC/NMC and just down right too many terrible 3rd and 4th line players as well as an aging non-producing core.

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#9 FireOnIce
January 21 2011, 12:25PM
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@Kent Wilson

Thanks for the correction Kent.

I guess that makes a bit more sense as to Morrow's numbers, Benn is doing quite well and Ribeiro... well, shadow of his former self, but still holding his own as noted by RC.

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#10 Nockford
January 21 2011, 02:26PM
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Can anyone explain the concept ot PDO to me? What is it?

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#11 Palt
January 21 2011, 02:29PM
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Boy, I remember when Backlund and Benn teamed up down the stretch for Kelowna that year. Backlund was amazing, but Benn was a beast. Plain and simple. He scored goals almost at will during the WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. I knew Benn was gonna be a good player at this level. I was just hoping Backlund wouldnt be far behind him.

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