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NHL Playoff update: Conference Finals.

Exceptional Goalie play continued to propel two teams to the Stanley Cup Finals

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This article is a mix of my thoughts on the playoffs so far and where I think we are seeing some talent building for the 2017-2018 season.

My thoughts:

1. Here we stand, the 2017 Stanley Cup finals between one team that has really surprised everyone, and another which has shown insatiable poise and resilience with their back against the wall repeatedly.

2. By and large it has been excellent goalie performances that have carried both teams, I'll be eager to see how this plays out in the finals.  Matt Murray and Pekka Rinne currently hold the 2nd and 3rd best GAA AND Save %. Pekka and Marc-Andrew Fleury have the most Shutouts (granted they had more games to play in then most other goalies)

3. Ottawa has 3 players in the top 3 in hits in the playoffs and yet they did not seem like the more aggressive team down the stretch last night. Marc Methot and Dion Phaneuf were playing physical but Jean-Gabriel Pageau (6th with 53 hits) and Kyle Turris (9th with 48 hits) did not seem to be playing the body much. I was equally surprised to see only two Anaheim Ducks players in here and none of them in the top 3: Josh Manson (5th -€” 54 hits); Nick Ritchie (7th -€” 52 hits).

4**. The importance of Faceoffs has not carried teams as far as I anticipated, here are the top 10 faceoff % winners with at least 50 faceoffs taken: Mikko Koivu (64.2%); Tomas Hertl (62.7%); Brian Boyle (62%); Antoine Vermette (60.8%); Phillip Danault (58.8%); Joe Pavelski (58.6%; Martin Hanzal (57.3%); Matt Cullen (56.5%); Thomas Plekanec (56.2%); Jonathan Toews (55.6%). For those keeping track that is: 1 player currently in the Finals, 1 player in the Conference Finals; 1 in the Conference Semi-Finals and 7 players who were ousted in the first round.

**I will note that teams reaching deeper in the playoffs provide larger sample size and regression to a mean but there were a number of players with at least 1,000 faceoffs won in the high percentage 50's from the regular season.

The others:

  • The last 3 years Stanley Cup champions have had a higher Shot Attempts % close then their opponents. Nashville has the edge this year (52.71% to Pittsburgh's 47.58), I wonder if Pittsburgh can buck the trend.
  • Pittsburgh currently has 3 players in the top ten in points per game (Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel all at least 1 point per game). Nashville's highest player is Filip Forsberg (16th - .94 points per game)

The numbers:

  • 0 Sweeps, 1 Game 7's (last year no sweeps, 1 game 7's in the conference finals)
  • 4 games went into OT (last year had 2)

Fantasy Implications:

Stock up from playoffs:

Bobby Ryan -€” after a down year due partially to injuries, he seems to be in his comfort zone again and has a solid chance be a 60+ point producer next year.

Jakob Silfverberg -€” He fired 61 shots in the post season -€” more than anyone else. If he keeps that trend up he will see results (similar to the 9 goals he saw over 17 games this post season)

Ryan Dzingel -€Scoring that game tying goal last night solidified the talent and capabilities he has to excel.

Filip Forsberg -€” the top ten scorer from this season was up 8 goals from last year. He is currently scoring on 15% of his shots in the playoffs, if this pace continues he becomes a top 20 fantasy player for next year.

Pittsburgh Penguins Power Play Unit -€” has been amazing in the playoffs whether it's Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Justin Schultz etc... while I maintain they should be tired as a whole next year, I could see them being a top 3 team in PPP (they were 12th in the regular season).

Stock down from playoffs:

Brandon Mantour -€” who fired 37 shots with not a single goal this post season, the most of anyone, I imagine he is only being drafted in the deepest of leagues.

Conor Sheary -€” I'm nervous he becomes a regular season elite, playoff starved producer (currently has 4 points, 0 goals and a -6). Time will tell.
Antoinne Vermette -€” while he will always get you face-offs, his point production was near non-existent in Nashville's playoff run.

Ryan Kesler -€” First, I think this year's numbers were high for his normal production. Second, he has to be tired after a physical deep playoff run. Third, he had 1 goal across 45 shots and ended with a -6.