NHL Playoffs 2013: Most Important Lessons Learned Midway Through 2nd Round
The second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs is almost over. Midway through the semifinals one of the most important lessons learned involves the power play. The New York Rangers have learned first-hand that you can live or die because of your power play.
Other lessons also include the importance of team depth and how it is crucial to win faceoffs. Here are the most important lessons that have been learned midway through the second round.
Having Depth Is Very Important
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Stars like Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares earn tons of recognition during the regular season, but the playoffs give role players the opportunity to become a hero. One of the biggest examples thus far involves the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins' fourth line has dominated the New York Rangers, and the Detroit Red Wings' bottom six has played well against Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.
Another example involves Scott Gomez. "Did he score yet" was a popular phrase uttered when he was with the Montreal Canadiens because of his goal drought, but he has finally made a good name for himself.
Gomez has become the anchor of the Sharks' third line, and his line has played well against the Los Angeles Kings. A few months ago Gomez was still considered a laughing stock around the league, but he has been a key component for the Sharks during the second round.
While it is great to have star players, thus far many teams have learned the importance of having a deep roster that can play important minutes.
The Officiating Has Been Terrible, It Is Unlikely to Get Better
The Stanley Cup playoffs have had some pretty poor officiating to date, and two calls this week really illustrate that change is needed.
A quick whistle cost the Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Penner a goal in Game 4. Another bad call cost the Chicago Blackhawks a goal, and it impacted the game's outcome.
Andrew Shaw was in the crease during Game 3 against the Detroit Red Wings, and his goal was waived off because of a controversial goaltender interference call. The goal was taken back, and the Red Wings would score their third and final goal moments later.
In both instances the referees were blatantly wrong, and the officiating throughout the playoffs has been questionable at best.
There were also multiple times during the New York Rangers' Game 4 loss against the Boston Bruins in which they should have been penalized, but they weren't.
One of the biggest narratives of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs has been the terrible officiating, and referees should never be a big story. Fans can only hope that the standard of officiating improves as the playoffs continue, because playoff games should be decided with goals and saves, not bad officiating.
Teams Can Live and Die Because of the Power Play
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The New York Rangers' power play has killed them throughout the second round. The team's lack of execution is a major reason why it's in a 0-3 hole against the Boston Bruins, and it will become a big point of contention once the team is eliminated.
The Rangers' power play—as John Tortorella has summed up the Rangers' performance before— has "sucked from head to toe," and the team's lack of execution is inexcusable.
On the other hand, the San Jose Sharks' power play has been great throughout the playoffs. The Sharks have been able to use it as an advantage, and it is a major reason why they are having success against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Sharks have one of the best power play units of the remaining teams in the playoffs, and that will only help their Stanley Cup chances as the playoffs continue.
The power play is always an important facet of NHL hockey, but in the playoffs it is very important to make the most of the opportunities that arise.
If You Want to Win, Win Faceoffs
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It is a simple concept, but winning faceoffs are very important. If you take a quick look at NHL.com, you will see that the Boston Bruins (58.6 percent), San Jose Sharks (56.6 percent) and the Detroit Red Wings (52.6 percent) are in the top three for faceoffs.
Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly of the Bruins are currently the top two faceoff men in the playoffs, and they have been an integral part of the Bruins' success.
The Bruins took a 3-0 lead in Game 3, and the reason they won was because of their faceoff efficiency. A key faceoff win by Shawn Thornton in the defensive-zone led to a game-winning goal by Daniel Paille, and it further illustrated the importance of winning faceoffs.
The Rangers have not been able to win faceoffs, and they are No. 7 amongst the eight remaining teams in faceoff efficiency. The Blueshirts have only won 47.9 percent of their draws, and Derick Brassard leads the team with a 50.8 percent efficiency rating.
Defensive-zone draws are crucial in the playoffs, because many of the faceoffs are the result of an icing. When a team has tired players on the ice, winning a faceoff can be the difference in winning or losing a game.
When you look at all the available data and the current standings, it is very evident that successful teams win faceoffs.
You Can Still Lose Games Even If You Have Great Goaltending
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Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist are two of the NHL's top goaltenders, and the second round has illustrated that you can still lose playoff games with great goaltending. During the playoffs both Quick and Lundqvist have had their share of flubs, but they have been pretty dominant for the most part.
In the Rangers' Game 3 loss on Tuesday, Lundqvist stood on his head for most of the game but the Rangers still lost. In Games 3 and 4 against the San Jose Sharks, Quick played very well but the Kings still lost in overtime.
It is important to have quality goaltending, but the playoffs have illustrated that you can still lose even with an elite netminder between the pipes.