Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game 3: Caps @ Flyers

[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

I'm beginning to think I'm the only person in the hockey world not in awe of Martin Biron. Yes, the guy has three shutouts in his last four starts. But on Sunday, at least, he was the beneficiary of a great team defensive effort and a good bit of luck (his supporters will refer to this luck as "good positioning"). Was he good? Sure. Great? No. Good enough? That's all that matters, isn't it? But he's still the same Marty Biron that stopped just 22 of 27 shots on Friday night.

In fact, even with his Game 2 whitewash of the Caps, Biron has the third-worst save percentage in the playoffs. At the other end of the rink, Cristobal Huet - the source of some criticism for his performance so far - is a few percentage points ahead of Biron (but trails him by half a goal in GAA).

Two games is a small sample, to be sure, so let's take a look at the two netminders' performances thus far, goal by goal (for Game 1 video, click here, and for Game 2, click here). First, Biron:
  • Game 1, Goal 1: Donald Brashear, even strength, wrist shot, 9 feet, previous shot attempt 29 seconds earlier; Tom Poti's shot/pass deflects to an open Brashear who deposits the puck in a gaping net
  • Game 1, Goal 2: David Steckel, even strength, wrist shot, 19 feet, previous shot attempt six seconds earlier; Steckel finds himself open, Biron looks to be in position, but is beaten from a decent angle
  • Game 1, Goal 3: Mike Green, even strength, wrist shot, 11 feet, previous shot attempt 45 seconds earlier; Alex Semin to Sergei Fedorov to Green past a helpless Biron
  • Game 1, Goal 4: Mike Green, power play, slap shot, 44 feet, previous shot attempt six seconds earlier; with Patrick Thoreson writhing in pain, Green blows a slapper past Biron on what had become more or less a 5-on-3
  • Game 1, Goal 5: Alexander Ovechkin, even strength, snap shot, 17 feet, previous shot attempt 49 seconds earlier; Red Jesus outwaits Biron and roofs it
And Huet:
  • Game 1, Goal 1: Vaclav Prospal, even strength, snap shot, 58 feet, previous shot attempt before last faceoff; a seeing-eye puck beats Huet, who is completely screened by Scott Hartnell
  • Game 1, Goal 2: Daniel Briere, even strength, snap shot, 40 feet, previous shot attempt before last faceoff; Briere exits the penalty box behind the Caps' D and beats Huet on a partial breakaway
  • Game 1, Goal 3: Vaclav Prospal, even strength, wrist shot, 30 feet, previous shot attempt before last faceoff; the red sea parts for Prospal, leaving him with a golden opportunity that he buries
  • Game 1, Goal 4: Daniel Briere, power play, wrist shot, 18 feet, previous shot attempt before last faceoff; with plenty of traffic around the crease Mike Richards finds Briere on a backdoor cut for a tap in
  • Game 2, Goal 1: R.J. Umberger, even strength, wrist shot, 18 feet, previous shot attempt before last faceoff; John Erskine falls asleep, Umberger gets a breakaway and partially fans on his shot, sending a knuckler past Huet
  • Game 2, Goal 2: Jeff Carter, even strength, wrist shot, 8 feet, previous shot attempt one second earlier; Mike Green coughs up the puck, Mike Knuble's initial shot isn't handled by Huet and Carter deposits the rebound
There's the raw data from the NHL's play-by-play feeds for the two games. The thing that jumps out at you right away, of course, is that there aren't any bullets under Biron's name that begin with "Game 2." Deeper than that, however, you notice immediately that Biron has only allowed one goal from more than 19 feet away, while Huet has allowed a trio of such tallies. Here are each of the goals in a tidy little graphic:

Which of these goals would Huet like back? I'd guess he isn't thrilled with allowing Briere's first in Game One, perhaps the Umberger goal and the rebound on Carter's goal. In other words a partial breakaway, a full breakaway and an odd-man rush.

As for Biron, I'm sure he'd love another chance at stopping Ovechkin, and can't be happy with the Steckel goal.

What's interesting is that Huet has been an absolute wall shorthanded, stopping 18 of the 19 shots (.947 SV%) he's seen on Flyers power plays, but has only an .884 save percentage at even strength - much of that can be attributed to breakdowns in the defense in front of him with the manpower level (I count four such instances). Biron has had a more even effort, with a .909/.892 split, in large part because the defense in front of him (with one incredibly glaring exception) hasn't made too many mistakes. The dreaded matchup entering the series - the Flyers' second-ranked power play against the Caps' 25th-ranked penalty kill - has yet to really burn the Caps and, contrary to what the regular season stats may have predicted, Philly has been the better team five-on-five.

The other notable stat is the shot disparity. Through two games, the Flyers have outshot the Caps 63-51. Now, that doesn't sound like much, but 12 shots against any goalie, statistically, is likely to yield a goal (11 saves on 12 shots against is a .917 save percentage). In a playoff series as tight as this one is expected to be, one extra goal over two games can certainly be the difference.

Further to that last point, the Caps have had 15:17 of power play time through two games, but have managed only 11 shots on goal. Philly has had 13:49 of extra man time and, as mentioned above, has fired 19 shots on Huet. The Caps have simply got to find a way to get pucks to the net on the power play.

Alright, bottom line time. It's no great secret that the Caps defense has been shaky so far, but if they can tighten up, there's every reason to believe that the Caps can get right back into the driver's seat in this series. Even if the defense makes a mistake or two, Huet is playing well enough to keep them in every game and hasn't yet come close to playing his best game of the series. Martin Biron, on the other hand, has had an unimpeded view of nearly every shot he has faced, and has been average... and he probably has already played his best game of the series.


Shaggy said...

I was thinking the same thing, i.e., Huet and the Caps have not given their best effort yet. I hope it's tonight - I have reason to believe that if Bouds can't get these guys up for tonight, no one can.

JP said...

Time waster: what song/movie clip pumps you up the most?

For me, it's Manson's "Beautiful People" (reminds me of the '98 Cup run) and the William Wallace "They may take our lives, but they'll never take... our freedom!" speech from Braveheart.

algoon said...

Gee, Caps turning a scrub into the second coming of Georges Vezina? Not like that has ever happened before.

Mendelssohn always got me pumped up. Hey...I'm a goalie.

Bowler said...

"Red Jesus outwaits Biron and roofs it..."

'Red Jesus'? On the eve of the Pope's visit? [chuckle] Too bad he's gonna be busy in Philly on Thursday or he could pitch in and help him out at mass.

(I love you, JP!)

Anonymous said...

Well, Yes and no.

First you could add all the shots Biron blocked at point blank range. Yes Matt Cooke has the same hockey sense as Sean Avery, but 3 feet alone on the goalie, hitting him in the chest is either a miserable shot or the goalie being in great position.

And, on the Prospal goal in G1, I sit on the far side from Huet in the low rows, and you could clearly see Huet lean to try to hedge against a pass. Yes, he got hung out to dry by the D, but you lean, you lose.

JP said...

'Red Jesus' was Hooks' suggestion (and a riff on KSK's 'Purple Jesus' moniker for Vikings RB Adrian Peterson). Fitting, no?

tg said...

For both games, I didn't think Biron looked that good. Lots of rebounds left sitting around, just no one there to take advantage of it. And he looked out of position on lots of shots that were blocked by the defense or went (surprise, surprise) too high.

Of course, it's easy for us to sit in the stands and say, "Drive to the net, get the rebounds." But will they actually do it?

hotdog88gt said...

After watching the horrible Caps PP, it was a pleasure to watch the Western conference games last night. Unclogged neutral zones, actually bona fide passing, a few give-n-go's, power play units that actually shoot the puck.

And if Flash plays tonight I'm going to be very unhappy. Shot-blocking Quintin Laing has completely disappeared. Would love to know what he's done wrong.

b.orr4 said...

Let's take a look at Biron's three shutouts. The first was against the Devils, one of the most offensively-challenged teams in the league. If I'm correct, they also led the NHL in number of times being shutout this season. Then Biron blanked the Penguins who weren't exactly "trying" to win that game. (Of course, seeing how they're doing against Ottawa, who can blame them for tanking). And then he shut out the Caps. Granted, he made some very good saves, but Cooke hit him twice in the chest, Ovechkin and Semin hit posts and then Semin missed an absolutely yawning net from five feet away in the second period. All in all, Biron's been OK, but he's not going to make me forget Ken Dryden. If the Caps keep at him, they'll score more than enough to win this series. And let's not forget, he is Matthew Biron's brother.

sonia said...

biron totally cheated- apparently his wife had a c-section scheduled for early yesterday morning. of COURSE he's going to get a shutout on the eve of his child's scheduled birth! are any caps supposed to have babies this week?

JP said...

@ b.orr4: I couldn't agree more.

~Mark said...

I was thinking a lot of the same things about Biron. I don't know if the talking heads on TV believe the stuff the spout (about Biron's dominance) or if it's just good TV? The Caps (probably every team) have a game every so often where they make a goalie look incredible, when it's really just inept shots or "dings" off of pipes, etc...

I really agree that the Flyers (and Biron) have played their best game. Now if they can play it again 3 more times (within the next 5 games) we're in trouble.

The Caps will bring their A game tonight for at least 50 minutes, and I expect a win.

Anonymous said...

For songs I like: pre-strike, they used to warm up to "Stop the Rock". That always used to get me in the mood for the games.

These days, the music basically stinks, IMHO. Manson's ok, and the "Unleash the Fury" bit is fun now that there are people at the game (but, man was it sad when attendence was near 5K), but I don't really get the same love as I did pre-strike.

NS said...

I am confident our Offense can step it up. I am NOT confident our Defense can. Emmie should be out there. He would have outplayed Poti, but that isn't saying much, considering how piss poor Poti has played in both games. Don't get me started on Schultz or Erskine.

I would keep Green, Emminger, maybe Jurcina (for size alone) and get rid of the rest of our D corp. It would be easy to replace them. Our D's transition game is HORRENDOUS.

"Spoonman" by Soundgarden always gets me juiced - has one of the best guitar riffs ever.

James said...

My sources tell me Flash is out and Fehr is in for Game 3- that's promising. D-men apparently the same as Game2 - not so promising.

terpZ said...

@ns - please get started on schultz and erskine. or if you won't i will. my favorite thing about them, is that if they were combined, you'd probably have a nice defenseman, because they suck in different ways. Erskine isn't a bad defender - he punishes forwards, he moves the puck reasonably well, but he's really slow and he takes the worst penalties. Add in he's 28 or 29 so he's not going to get better. Schultz on the other hand is a young guy, who can get up and down the ice pretty quickly and rarely gets penalized, but is horrible with the puck and i don't think there's a forward in the nhl who is afraid of him because he's never hit anyone.

The defense is going to be the undoing of the caps at some point in the postseason but its going to be fun to watch. Its great to have playoff hockey in DC.

Anonymous said...

what's that "source" the vogl post that JP linked to on the right?

Michael said...

I've been saying the same thing: Biron has had a clear view of every shot coming his way and has had almost no traffic in front of him.

grapejoos said...

I like the forward lines. Laich is a good winger for Feds and Semin, and I like the muck-raking potential of Cooke - Steckel - Bradley.

As for the D, I'm going to give Schultz one more game before going on a tirade against him. He didn't look healthy last time out. If he can't go full speed, Eminger needs to be in there.

Brunella said...

"b.orr4 said ... Let's take a look at Biron's three shutouts..."

B.orr4, I agree with your assessment entirely! Good observations on all those shutouts, particularly the tank job that the Pen-gweens pulled. (Speaking of that, I am surprised that the League didn't reprimand anyone on that shameful episode. Well, come to think of it. No, not really all that surprised. I suppose they are more interested in seeing Kool-aid lips advance unscathed to further rounds than see honest play. --shrug--)

Anyway, b.orr4 --- good post! Thanks. Let's hope those Biron genes manifest themselves.

SgtD said...

I'm sorry I am not up on my Capitals news but...is Huet going to sign with Washington in the off-season? I did not expect him to take the starting job away from Kolzig. Is Olli going to retire? (no, I'm not a local Caps fan, just a Chicago boy watching other teams play in the playoffs :) )

NS said...


Huet and the Caps have said they are not talking contracts until after the playoffs. Who knows what is going on behind the scenes, though.

dmg said...


I'd have to disagree there. Erskine can hit and fight and that's about it, but it doesn't really matter how you hit if you can't catch up to the forwards. His puck handling is poor: he gives the puck away and puts it over the glass for a penalty on a regular basis and he rarely gets shots through - they are too often blocked for a quick breakout for the opposition, especially bad given his poor foot speed and acceleration.

Schultz is nothing special at this point but I feel he's less mistake prone, plays more positionally sound, is a more agile skater and is less likely to take himself out a play to make a hit. The style he plays is primarily based on playing mistake-free and I think he does it well.

Personally, I want to see Erskine out of the lineup. He can't match up with the quicker Flyer forwards and has no offensive upside, unlike Eminger.


Schultz is very polished given his age and size and led the team's 'D' in +/-. Poti has been the team's most consistent defenseman in his own end and was 2nd among defensemen in +/-. Morrisonn has the best natural shut-down ability. I think those three are all worth keeping.

JP said...

I'm with dmg - my top six D would include Emmy and not Erskine.

Scott said...

Pump up music - anything by AC/DC. Lately I've been rocking "For those about to rock (we salute you)" Nothing like cannon fire to pump you up. Also could play into the Rock the Red theme. I never could get into the Manson theme because it reminds me of high school.

I wasn't sold on Emmy earlier, but I think he is a better option than Erskine in this series and I wish he was in there instead of Schultz Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I bet you my life plus a million gazillion dollars on the follownig.

Caps win tonight 4-3 take it to the house and wait for the check from vegas cuz this is money baby!!

SgtD said...

@ns - thanks for your response.

Rage said...

Anonymous, can you just give me odds and I'll bet a cool hundo on it? Like 1000:1 odds or something?

Sweet, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Stop you're crying, captials won a weak divison. flyers in the atlantic, might I add 4 teams from the atlantic are in the playoffs. Guys breaking down the game like your true captial fans. havent seen any caps fans since 1998. Give me a break suck ovechkins manhood alittle more, guys are makin him weak.

Marco said...

Is that even English? Don't they have schools in PA?