[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. Ben Bishop's injury
Gotta love the controversy that has sprung up around Ben Bishop maybe-maybe-not-but-probably-yes injury picked up in Game 2. (My bet is still that he had to take a big ol' dump.)
Now, every time he moves side to side, Pierre yells, “Oh my god Doc and Eddie he's hurt real bad and I can see the blood coming out of his ears,” even as he stops — what was it again? Oh right — 36 saves in a road win.
At what point do we begin to entertain the possibility that this whole circus was caused by an overreaction from the media and coy gamesmanship from Jon Cooper. “We're not going to tell you what may or may not be wrong with him,” is a perfectly reasonable strategy here, but then again Cooper was asked on national television whether he was letting Bishop play hurt and he flat-out denied it. Could he be lying, or, as some might say, “using lawyer-speak?” It's very possible.
But what's also possible is that he and Bishop hatched a plan to mess with everyone. Put it this way: Bishop seemed to be moving fine whenever the puck was in a dangerous area around his net. No problems at all. But then the second the puck gets cleared he starts making a big show of getting back to his feet like an arthritic retired professional wrestler.
Of course, he might also just be hurt and full of Cortisone. Guess we'll find out in a week or two, but I'm not willing to discount that this is all a work.
6. Criticism of goaltenders' play
And yet, at the same time as everyone on earth is rending garments and gnashing teeth over Bishop being allowed to play through an injury, all the commentary on these games is very focused on what he's doing wrong. As though, if he were injured and Cooper played him anyway, his mobility problems were in some way his fault.
“They're trying to get him to move side to side,” and, “That one beat him high glove.” Know what every team in hockey tries to do to every goalie they play? Try to get him to move side to side. Know where most goals beat goalies? High glove.
Oh and that's right, this is frickin' Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith making goals happen. One of them was through a screen on the power play, and the other was a phenomenal passing play by one of the best lines in hockey. It's not like he's getting lit up by an AHL team. And hell, he's not getting lit up at all. Again, 36 damn saves against Chicago at United Center. It's silly.
Of course, this type of asinine goaltender criticism is not just the provenance people harping on poor, rickety, moments-from-death Ben Bishop.
Take a look at the first goal Corey Crawford allowed, the laser-focused bombed-in slapper from Ryan Callahan. Let's say Callahan takes a similar unscreened shot from that exact location 500 times. How many times does that beat Crawford? Not a lot, certainly. That shot couldn't have been better placed if Callahan had called a Zack Morris-style time out and physically picked up the puck and carried it past Crawford's shoulder. That's how well-placed it was.
And there's the NBC Sports geniuses saying, “That's a bad goal to give up.”
There wasn't a goalie in the world stopping that one, folks. I know it's very en vogue to think Crawford is a bum even now, after all the success he's had (.932 save percentage at 5-on-5 in these playoffs), but come on. There are just some shots no one's stopping.
5. Greedy Dougie Hamilton, the worst defenseman alive
As part of the Bruins' seemingly unending struggles to maintain cap compliance and field a team with a lot of actual NHL players, there are always going to be casualties. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Bruins had no intentions of brining back third-line center Carl Soderberg, despite the fact that he was fourth on the team in points at 5-on-5 this season while spending most of his time playing with Chris Kelly. They're going to go with two kids as the bottom two centers instead, and make a number of other tough decisions as well.
Chief among those other tough decisions is what the hell they're going to do with Dougie Hamilton, who at 21 years old is already on the cusp of a decade and a half's worth of superstardom. People who don't watch the Bruins every night might see that as overreach, but this is what War on Ice sees as the closest comparables to his age-21 season.
That's a lot of guys who went on to become superstars, and also Ian White and Kevin Bieksa, the latter of whom at least had a Norris-worthy season or two a few years back. If you're comparing a kid to Kris Letang and Alex Pietrangelo at roughly the same age, that strikes me as being very, very impressive.
But there are some in Boston — who won't be mentioned here because they don't deserve the attention — who believe Hamilton hasn't earned a contract similar to that of Drew Doughty or Pietrangelo, which is reportedly what he's seeking. That put him in the $6.5 million to $7 million range, which would make him one of the top-10 defensemen in the league in terms of AAV. Is Hamilton at that level yet (a level with Karlsson, Pietrangelo, Phaneuf, Chara, and Doughty)? Some analysis says yes, others say no. Will he be very soon, maybe as soon as 2015-16? Almost certainly.
And so it becomes a question of whether you want to make like the Canadiens with PK Subban. They forced him into a $5.75 million, two-year bridge deal, then made him the richest defenseman in the history of the game at $72 million over eight years. Total cost for 10 years of mostly Subban's prime (ages 23-33): $77.75 million, or an AAV of $7.78 million on average. That certainly helped the Habs skirt cap trouble in the short term, but the necessity of paying him $9 million against the cap as a 33-year-old is something you just have to swallow. Meanwhile, the Bruins have Hamilton asking for $6.5 million, and if you give it to him on the condition that he also take eight years, then you get him from age 22 until he's 30.
It's impossible to guess what the league's cap situation will look like eight years from now (especially because we're due for another lockout before then, haha) but if it goes up even a little over the next few years, the fact that you'd be getting Hamilton at about 75 percent of the cost of an older Subban for the next eight seasons is going to be huge.
The Bruins have been burned by bridge contracts before — promising Reilly Smith and Torey Krug big money if they took short money for a year turned out to be foolhardy — and who knows what Hamilton looks like in two seasons? Probably he wants more Subban money than Doughty at that point.
But wouldn't you rather pay a guy from age 22 to 30 instead of 24 to 32? He might still be dominant as he rounds the bend into his 30s — and it seems crazy to talk about this with a guy this young — but the former tack seems smarter than the latter. At least you're paying a discount for his prime years.
4. Poor li'l Jonny Drouin
Jonathan Drouin has, I think, been unfairly maligned in these playoffs. Only gets into the one game in the Cup Final, makes a few good things happen early on, turns the puck over once, and gets his ass stapled to the bench for much of the game's remainder. Then he's scratched again in Game 3 because he's so untrustworthy.
Did he turn the puck over in a scary moment? Yes. He also generated three scoring chances by himself in like 8:35 of 5-on-5 time. That seems like the more important thing on which to concentrate, yeah? (And his zone starts? Just 1 of 4 were in the offensive end.)
Meanwhile, Brenden Morrow is an albatross every time he comes over the boards; generates almost nothing, gets badly outpossessed 43.2 percent) and doesn't even throw his body around a ton. And turnovers? Nebulously tracked though they may be, scorekeepers in Tampa and Chicago have him with four giveaways and nary a takeaway to his credit.
I get that Drouin is a rookie and Morrow a veteran of a thousand wars. But if you're letting seniority and confirmation bias dictate lineup decisions, that's a bad look. I'd rather have Drouin generating chances galore on a per-minute basis than Morrow hopefully not-hurting his team.
3. Tampa's third line
While we're on the subject, though, of all the guys in the Lightning forward group to score the big goals, no one on earth would have picked Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. That includes Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan, and all members of their immediate families.
2. Being bulletproof
Imagine a scenario in which the Penguins make the Cup Final. Imagine Sidney Crosby has one assist in three games, and his team won just one of those contests. Imagine how much criticism he gets, and how many articles are published about how he's not the best player in the world.
Jonathan Toews has one assist in three games in this Cup Final, and Chicago is down 2-1. No one says a word about how he has to step up. Must be nice.
1. A copycat league
Oh yeah, if the Lightning win this series other teams are definitely going to start copying their approach to things. Like having a lot of young skilled players on entry-level deals and playing like veterans. Or having one of the best defensemen alive. Or having a player of Steven Stamkos's quality in a complementary role.
Yup, real easy to copy that kind of thing. All you need is great drafting and development, a lot of luck, and a genius coach. Once you have that, it will be really easy to copy the Lightning's path to success.
Honestly, the only thing Tampa has done differently than the other teams that have had similar success with young cores is take advantage of a market inefficiency (GMs still aren't getting hyper-aggressive about paying for possession talent rather than production talent, but that's changing quickly) and taking chances on smaller players.
They have seven players under six feet tall getting some time in these playoffs, and the only member of the Triplets line that has just wreaked havoc on everyone it's faced in this postseason to stand taller than 5-foot-11 is Ondrej Palat, who is 6 feet tall.
That whole line about small guys have to prove they can play, and big guys have to prove they can't? That's still a thing in hockey, even as listed-as-5-foot-9-but-probably-shorter-than-that-by-a-good-two-inches Johnny Gaudreau could win the Calder and the Triplets maybe lead the Bolts to a Cup.
This issue isn't going to change any time soon, but if it convinces even one more GM to roll the dice on a mega-skilled little guy — you don't even have to draft him, you just have to give him a chance to make your roster — that keeps the snowball rolling down the hill pretty effectively.
Yup, it's a copycat league. No question about that. Hopefully all this leads to GMs copying some Cretaceous-era thinking out of the league.
(Not ranked this week: Keeping Chicago fans out of Tampa.
Boy whenever the visiting team scored down at Amalie Arena, it sure sounded like there were a lot of cheers. Didn't those people know their constitutional rights were being violated?!)