UPDATED - Blues looks to sweep the Wild and dealing with the "narrative"
April 19, 2017, 4:01 PM ET [46 Comments]
St Louis Blues Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
Follow me on twitter
Reports are that Erik Haula will be out of the lineup tonight due to injury and that Darcy Kuemper will not be available due to illness. Look for Alex Stalock to serve as the backup goalie.
Jordan Schroeder and Christian Folin will likely be health scratches. The Wild forward lines are expected to be the following:
Coyle - Staal - Granlund
Niederreiter - Koivu - Parise
Zucker - Hanzal - Pominville
Stewart - Eriksson-ek - White
Also, I'll be updating live via twitter tonight from behind the Blues net.
Tonight the Blues will look to sweep the Minnesota Wild when they host the Wild in a late 8:30pm start (collective scowl from the Midwest toward NBC). Many Blues fans and myself are tiring of the narrative around the series that a number of people appear to be pushing. I have a theory as to why Blues fans may be more tired of that theory than a different fan base but more on that later.
The prevailing thought that I have been reading is that the Blues are lucky to be up 3-0. I agree. The Blues are fortunate to be up 3-0 instead of being up 2-1. Given how the teams have played, the Blues could be down 3-0 but the idea or notion that the Blues SHOULD be down 3-0 is silly and is likely either based on fandom or too simplistic of a view of advanced statistics. Yes, it is possible to take too simplistic of a view of advanced statistics and draw incorrect conclusions. I’ll try to illustrate this a few different ways.
Take game one and remove the video of the goals actually scored. Show this video to say 50 hockey fans and ask them which team they would guess won and by how many goals. I would guess that the vast majority, if not all, would guess the Wild and likely by more than one goal. If you did the same exercise with games two and three, I think you would get a much more balanced answer with a much narrower margin.
When you look in more depth at game one, the game I feel the Blues were fortunate to win, some of the advanced statistics suggest them winning wasn’t as big of a surprise as one might think. The Wild outshot the Blues by 26 shots but 20 of those extra shots were low danger shots. Of the remaining 6 shot differential, the Wild had 2 more mid danger shots and 4 more high danger shots. When you look at those stats in 5v5 only, the Wild only had 2 more high danger shots and 2 more mid danger shots. For fun, I applied Jake Allen’s regular save percentages to the extra low, mid and high danger shot totals to get an expected goals against related to these shots and the result was one goal. For as much as everyone perceives the Wild dominated game 1, the statistics suggest that this “dominance” should only have produced one extra goal.
In game 2, the Wild only had 3 more high danger chances and no extra mid danger chances. When you apply Allen’s regular season save percentage on high danger chances, it would compute to less than half of a goal. I would suggest this is hardly dominant enough to suggest a team should have won.
When you look at game 3, the Wild only had one more high danger chance than the Blues (9 to 8) and Dubynk let in a low danger goal against. Some might suggest the Wild were fortunate that the two posts the Blues hit didn’t find their way into the net, extending their lead to 3-0 in the first half of the game.
When you look at the series, sure the Wild are outshooting the Blues but they only have 8 more high danger shots than the Blues (less than 3 per game) and only 9 more mid danger shots (3 per game). In these circumstances with so few games, even marginally better save percentages across the shot groups will allow your team to win when the extra high quality chances are that few. Welcome to Mike Yeo’s game plan for this series. Limit the high quality chances, limit second chances and capitalize on your chances at a rate higher than that of the Wild.
My long-winded point is that the Blues were opportunistic and fortunate in game one to earn the victory and that based on my take of games two and three, I wouldn’t have been surprised if either team had won. The idea that the Wild should be up 3-0 based on how they have played is silly in my opinion. The idea that they could have been up 3-0 based on how they have played is not.
Regardless, the only thing that currently matters is that the Blues are up 3-0 and need to take advantage of the opportunity to close out the series, get some needed rest, and avoid any injuries.
Blues fans understand the idea of controlling play and outshooting their opponent only to lose better than most fan bases. It was a theme for a number of the Blues teams in the last 15-20 years. Sometimes it was thought that they ran into a hot goaltender (Jonathan Quick for example). Sometimes fans wondered if they just lacked any elite goal scorers who could actually score in the playoffs when scoring tightens up. However you slice it, Blues fans are familiar with seeing their team lead the shooting gallery but trail the scoreboard.
Paul Stastny is practicing but don’t expect him to suit up tonight. There isn’t a need given the series sits at 3-0. Also, the schedule makes it smart to allow him to miss this game and get a number of extra practice days to test it out. I expect the Blues to use the same lineup as the last game which was this:
Schwartz – Barbashev – Tarasenko
Paajarvi – Berglund - Perron
Sobotka – Steen - Sanford
Upshall – Brodziak – Reaves
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Edmundson - Parayko
Gunnarsson - Bortuzzo
Overall NHL playoff news:
- Brian Elliott has the lowest, low danger save percentage at 85.4% but the third highest high danger save percentage.
- Half of the 16 starting goalies have a perfect 100% low danger save percentage.
- The top 3 goalies in save percentage are all in the western conference.
- Three of the four lowest save percentages are in the eastern conference though the worst is Elliott from the west though Tukka Rask has the worst actual versus expected save percentage differential.
It’s a great day for hockey.
Fellow Hockeybuzz bloggers Nashville Predator's Paul McCann, Winnipeg Jet's Peter Tessier and Minnesota Wild's Dan Wallace have generously agreed to a friendly charity wager. Since the Hawks won the division and JJ didn’t participate, Dan Wallace got to choose the charity. Dan graciously agreed to also donate since the Wild didn’t actually win the division. Dan picked United Heroes League (https://unitedheroesleague.org/) who helps keep military kids active and healthy while their parents serve their country, helping more than 40,000 military families keep or start their kids in sports through game tickets, sports equipment, camps and grants. Dan and I have made a charity on this series as well.