I’d like to think of myself as a reasonable person who doesn’t get wrapped up in superstitions. Yet, events on Monday made me realize that maybe I’m just superstitious about trivial things.
Fearing the jinx is a pretty ridiculous thing, especially when it comes to things you literally have zero impact on, like high-level professional sports. Still, there are moments when I find myself operating just a few strides short of Robert De Niro’s superstitious father character in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
It doesn’t help when coincidences get downright creepy, either, though.
Let me set the scene for this past Monday.
With Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder tickets in tow, my significant other and I craned our necks to try to watch the remnants of Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins on the only TV it was playing on at the Hooters near FedEx Forum.* (Sorry, I know I shouldn’t cheat on hockey, but those tickets were purchased before it was clear there would be dual Game 7’s. Also, Marc Gasol regularly makes a flat-footed mid-range shot, which begs to be seen in person merely to confirm that it isn’t a figment of my imagination.)
Eventually, tip-off was dangerously close for Gristle-Thunder ball. With the Maple Leafs up 4-2 with just a few minutes and change left, it seemed safe to walk over to the hyped-up arena. I might have even said something dangerous like “they should win” or (gasp) “they have it in the bag.”
Obviously that wasn’t the case.
At some point between leaving that bar & grill and getting our tickets scanned, the Bruins had improbably tied it. We tried valiantly tried to establish a decent connection to the radio feed on our two decreasingly smart phones, but eventually just saw the score: 5-4 Bruins.
Clearly it’s all my fault. I’d like to personally apologize to the Maple Leafs organization, James Reimer, his wife, Elisha Cuthbert's rolling eyes and the city of Toronto plus its surrounding areas. I stopped fearing the jinx at the worst possible time.
(Looks out a rain-soaked window while sad piano music plays.)
SLUMPS AND SNAKE BITES
There’s something fitting about Patrice Bergeron being the guy who scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, because I had spent a good chunk of the last week or two pleading with people not to admonish playoff performers who’ve been cursed with the Phil Kessel Early Season Hex of firing a ton of shots on goal without being goalies. Really, when you think about it, it’s especially harsh to beat up on a guy if he cannot solve a netminder who might be playing over his head for a short period of time (see: any Penguins or Capitals player firing shots at Jaroslav Halak in the 2010 playoffs).
Bergeron was a member of that club - to an extent - before he broke through.
Before the third period of Game 7, Bergeron only had one goal on 29 shots, good for about a 3.5 shooting percentage. When crunch time hit hard, Bergeron scored two goals on three shots, rewarding head coach Claude Julien and everyone else who believed in him.
Here's a quick list of guys with high SOG totals but low tallies, to give these guys a little bit of relief through all the "gosh, he's such a choker" grief.
James van Riemsdyk: two goals on 33 SOG
Alex Ovechkin: one goal on 30 SOG
Tyler Seguin: zero goals on 29 SOG
Zdeno Chara: one goal on 25 SOG
Jaromir Jagr: zero goals on 25 SOG
Corey Perry: zero goals on 24 SOG
Rick Nash: zero goals on 22 SOG
John Carlson: zero goals on 21 SOG
Patrick Kane: zero goals on 20 SOG
Some of these guys - a surprising amount of Bruins - will get a chance to rectify their situations in second-round series. Others, especially Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry, won’t get that chance.
Sports writers and fans might condemn some of those sightless snipers, but you shouldn’t hold this against them when you’re drafting your teams for next season. If anything, it might give them an extra edge, at least early on.
(At least Kessel had a great series, eh?)
Jump for goalie talk
* - We didn’t have any of the husband’s alibi-fueling hot wings, in case you’re wondering.
Thanks to the fact that I missed that thunderous ending, my mind has trouble computing James Reimer being the goat, even in the eyes of the flippant.
However you feel about that finish, it’s pretty difficult to put all the blame on Reimer. He had an outstanding series, which makes the fact that his .923 save percentage matches Tuukka Rask’s mark. (Yet one looks like a hero while the other looks like a …)
Let’s take some time to look at some of the other goalies who won or lost, then.
If you look at the playoff save percentage leaders, you’ll see that Tomas Vokoun stands atop the NHL with a sterling .962 mark.
While I wouldn’t read too much into that number compared to his peers, I think it does empower a time-honored strategy in fantasy sports - not just hockey - the practice of “handcuffing.” It was already a smart move to pair Vokoun with Marc-Andre Fleury considering MAF’s 2012 meltdown, but now forward-thinking fantasy owners (such as Rotoworld’s Michael Finewax) have possibly the best option in net.
Those who got Vokoun before Fleury’s owners could are in an interesting situation in their own right. The big question I cannot answer is: how long is Vokoun’s leash? You’d like to think that his $2 million price tag and nearly spotless first three games would buy him two losses, but you never know what’s going to happen in the world of goalie politics.
Vokoun isn’t the only promising goalie, naturally.
Jonathan Quick seems like he’s back to being his all-world self after a bumpy regular season. There are no signs that Corey Crawford is anything less than a guy who was one of the best options in fantasy during the shortened campaign.** Henrik Lundqvist was the reason why the New York Rangers came back against the Washington Capitals and he may just foil another high-end goalie in Tuukka Rask.
The results of round two will obviously change things, but aside from guys like Carey Price, the big boys came through in the quarterfinals.
So we’ve covered the goalies who were outstanding, but who was truly awful? Again, I want to reiterate that it’s unfair to judge a netminder too much based on one series, especially if his team is over-matched. Please keep these limitations in mind by not passing too many judgments based on small sample sizes.
To be fairest, I looked at even-strength save percentage.
The lowest of them all is Peter Budaj (.842), but he only started one game and appeared in two. The second and third-worst guys were in the same series, as Evgeni Nabokov (.863) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.895) were the only guys who played at least four games that had less than a 90 percent even-strength mark. (Carey Price barely stayed out of that club with a .901.)
The top two "losers" were Cory Schneider (.939 even-strength, albeit in two games) and Jonas Hiller (.937 in seven contests). Hiller, in particular, was fantastic in defeat. It all makes Viktor Fasth a fascinating wild card for next season's drafts. Then again, maybe you should just "handcuff" him?
ROTOWORLD POOL UPDATE
Here’s an update on the standings from the Rotoworld staff pool, which we’re running at Fantasy Postseason.com.
1. Ryan Dadoun - 320.6 points
2. Jimmy Hascup - 316.5
3. Michael Finewax - 303.5
4. Brian Rosenbaum - 299.4
5. Steve Lampert - 282.2
6. Corey Abbott - 277.1
7. Marty York - 266.3
8. Corey Griffin - 241.3
9. Kevin Brown - 204.4
10. My terrible team - 203.20
Ryan's team is powered by Zdeno Chara, Corey Crawford and Milan Lucic. Matt Martin (26.1 points) will be missed, but many of his players made it to round two. Jimmy's top four players (Slava Voynov, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg and Derick Brassard) all made it to the semifinals, but losing Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel and John Tavares could smart. Investing heavily in the Penguins looks like it'll pay off for Michael, but first-round eliminations of Anaheim, Vancouver and Montreal will present challenges.
As far as my team goes … well, at least Evgeni Malkin was a solid first pick.
** - The only slight issue is that Ray Emery is healthy enough to steal starts if the Detroit Red Wings show a little more fight.