Apr 16th, 2014
4:00PM UTC

SNN Predicts: 2014 NHL Division Semi-Finals

New Formats! Come and Getcher New Formats!

Welcome to the seventh annual SNN Predicts series of articles (eighth overall, if you count the 2004 version done on the forums, lost to the mists of time but notable for the fact that I went 0-4 in series involving the Flames), in which we act like we know what we’re talking about and make our (mostly) blindingly obvious predictions, with a shocking amount of success, considering some mainstream reporters usually wind up under .500 by the time the Stanley Cup is finally awarded somewhere around Canada Day. This is also at least my fifth year in a row copying and pasting the same intro, because I’m cool like that.

This year we’ve got a slightly confusing playoff format change, which as produced an unfortunate set of matchups out west. Unfortunate in the sense that two Cup contenders will be gone before half of Canada’s changed out their winter tires; we could have some rollicking fun watching those series in the meantime. Meanwhile, out east we have one elite team, one team riding its reputation, and a collection of question marks filling out the ranks. All of which should make for one confusing set of predictions. New this year: thanks to Extra Skater I can do some back-of-the-envelope fancystats on the season series, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds. Whether I mean that ironically or not depends on your perspective, I suppose. Given that I didn’t have much time to watch the NHL this year, it’s pretty much all I have to go on, so expect a lot of dry numbers and not much awareness of anything else; it served me shockingly well last year.

In keeping with the “new format” idea, we have a new tiebreaker. Specifically, I jacked it from the brackets: first tiebreaker is correct champion, second is correct runner-up, third is closest to the correct number of goals, over or under (no Price is Right rules).

With that, let’s get to it.

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Mar 25th, 2014
9:57AM UTC

Hitmen Game Day: Six Words

Which Aren't, "Don't You Think She Looks Tired?"

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1 4 1 0 6


2 5 7 2
5 0 6 1








Look, I don’t want to be the guy who complains about a win, but come the fuck on. That was insane. There’s no reason that game had to be a heart attack. Skapski was bloody awful – he gave up two from a foot below the blue line – and on any other night that’d be enough to cruise to a victory. Instead, penalty after penalty and failure after failure on the part of the PK and goaltender turned it into a barnburner. I’m sure it was exciting to watch as a neutral observer but as a fan with an investment, I spent most of the third period curled up into a ball praying every shot would go four feet wide.

Cue the “be careful what you wish for,” as Hoflin takes over tonight (I’m assuming) and the game ends 2-1. Whatever. Playoffs are stressful, man. Especially when your team enjoys putting themselves behind the 8-ball with penalty after penalty. AAAAAAAAAAH.

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Mar 24th, 2014
4:38PM UTC

Hitmen Game Day: That’s Better

0 0 0 0
1 2 2 5


2 5 1
5 0 1

That was more like it. And yes, I know, I suck at getting things up in a timely manner.

Obviously, last game was not a wire-to-wire domination, in opposition to the wire-to-wire suckage of most of the last three games, but it was still a vast improvement, and more like the sort of play I expected to see. In the first period, the Hitmen came out strong, doing the opposite of everything they’d been doing recently – completing passes, winning battles, breaking out and gaining the zone with control, making good defensive plays – and earned a 10-4 shots advantage and a 1-0 lead after one. In the second, it quickly became 2-0, and from there, the inevitable sag began. But unlike when the game turned on a dime last Friday in Cranbrook, even as the possession advantage slowly slipped away the Hitmen still looked much sharper in all three zones than they had done in previous games. I can live with a score effects-enabled dip in possession if the team still looks fundamentally competent, which they did on this night.

A few words on Brady Brassart. He has a team-leading 8 PIM – for some reason, all the tens handed out to date aren’t being counted by the WHL’s website, because that should be 18 28 – including three dumbass penalties in Game 1. Early in the Game 2, it looked like more of the same, cancelling out the game’s first PP. But after that, he seemed to finally get his act together. Three points on the night, some solid penalty killing, including a sequence with the puck trapped in the Kootenay zone, and no more penalties until garbage time. Now, if you followed Saturday night on Twitter, you know what I’m referring to here. Brassart scored on the PP with about seven and a half to go, and on his way to the Hitmen bench he got clobbered by Kootenay’s Austin Vetterl. On the replay, it looked like he may have been chirping the Ice bench, which would’ve certainly set Vetterl off. That said, the response was disproportionate, and Greg Chase did the right thing by taking on Vetterl immediately; all three were tossed, with no supplemental discipline. I hate seeing dumb shit like this late in games, though: I was upset about the Hitmen taking liberties late in Game 1 (resulting in three games worth of suspensions to two different players), and I’m upset about this here. It’s just unnecessary. Regardless of whether Brassart provoked this or not, though, I do hope the message has gotten through to him: he has a penchant for bad penalties at times, and that’s not something Calgary needs in this series going forward.

Game 3 is tonight at 7 on Shaw TV, and apparently there’s a viewing party at the south location of Buffalo Wild Wings. I will be watching from the comfort of the no pants zone, hoping for the Hitmen to steal at least one on the road and keep it at least even coming home for Game 5.

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Mar 21st, 2014
10:48AM UTC

Hitmen Post-Game: That Went Well


1 2 2 5
1 0 1 2

That could’ve gone better.

I didn’t get a chance to write a preview post, investigate the stats, etc., due to other commitments (procrastination, whatever). My initial instinct/hope was Hitmen in six, supported by Not Much In Particular, but the way they played last night – and indeed, in the final two games of the regular season, also against Kootenay – they’re looking more like a five-game loss. At the twelve-minute mark of the first period in last Friday’s game in Cranbrook, the Hitmen were up 2-0 on the scoreboard, and 11-5 in shots. Since then, they’ve been outshot 103-79 in 173 minutes of hockey, an average of -8.3 shot differential per 60 minutes or 43.4% of total shots. That’s some draft-lottery level shit right there. Yet in the first two games, they escaped with a 5-4 shootout win (after hocking up a 3-0 lead with 26 minutes to go), and then won 6-3 on home ice thanks to five consecutive goals in 20:04 of ice time. Human psychology is what it is: when you succeed despite a poor process, you’re not especially inclined to change the process because it’s “working,” even though in reality you’re playing with fire. Cognitive dissonance will kick in, you’ll ignore it, and then eventually you’ll get a wholly deserved 5-2 pasting. Hopefully, head coach Mike Williamson is now sending a clear message that is being received by everyone on the roster, because if not, this is gonna be a short playoff run by a team that tied for first in their conference and third in the WHL overall standings during the regular season.

It’s easy to blame poor discipline and officiating, both of which were certainly in evidence last night. The penalties didn’t help, but it’s not like they were a juggernaut before the parade to the box began; quite the opposite, really. They were outshot 4-1 already by the time they took their first penalty about five minutes in, and it was only through a weak five-hole that they were up 1-0. While they didn’t get hemmed in a ton by my recollection, they were never able to establish any kind of consistent offensive zone time at even strength, either. One play I noticed in the first was a “forecheck” in which two players were down low battling for the puck…and F3 was about two feet below the blue line in the middle of the ice, right between the two D. I never Played The Game, and I’m certainly no systems analyst, but that doesn’t seem like good puck support. Anyway, while I probably couldn’t do a great job of assessing that element through the rest of the game, I did spend the entire second period watching the breakout fail. Again. And again. And again. And–oh look, they got a wild pass out that got tipped in to avoid the icing! Does that count? Seriously, I don’t think they entered or exited the zone with control once that entire period. How the hell did they get 13 shots? They didn’t even get their first power play until 4:51 of the third period. Did the scorer feel bad for them or something?

As a fan, it’s probably best to burn the metaphorical tape for this one and move on to Saturday’s game. Realistically, 0-1 is not the biggest deal in the world. If Game 2 looks anything like Game 1, though…time to panic.

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Jul 11th, 2013
7:39PM UTC

Goalies of the Neo-Smythe

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Doob

Today on Twitter, I wound up chatting with the Puck Podcast’s Doug Stolhand about the Oilers’ off-season, which produced the following exchange:

So I’ve done precisely that. I went through the presumed starters and backups of each of the seven teams in the NHL’s westernmost division – which I’m calling the “Neo-Smythe,” because it sounds like something out of a cyberpunk dystopian future, and that feels somehow appropriate given the news of late – and looked at their numbers for the last three seasons. I grabbed both their total stats and their even-strength save percentage, to give me a good idea of what we’re looking at. After the jump, we start with the Oilers, then follow with the rest of the division.

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