I can’t lie to you, I was awesome in the conference finals. No, I didn’t actually play any games, but I picked those series bang on. Sure a monkey or a coin could do the same thing 25% of the time, but just let me gloat. Just a little more….a few more minutes….OK, I’m good, let’s move on.
If you missed my reviews of the conference finals, check out the East right here and the West here. I’ll be using the same style of breakdown, so it would be worth it for you to read them. If you need any stat explanations, just check out our glossary here.
Chicago vs Philadelphia
The best part about watching these two teams duel for the Cup is that at least one of these two great fan bases will be celebrating a cup win. Actually, the best part would be if the Blackhawks won and the Leafs were now the NHL team with the longest Cup-less streak. But that’s just being selfish on my part.
The Hawks have a +2.5 Fenwick/60 minutes at Even Strength (ES) so far in the playoffs, compared to Philly’s -6.0 F/60. This tells us that during 5-on-5 play, we’re more likely to see the puck in the Flyers end of the ice. That said, the Flyers have a slight edge in +/- at ES so far in the play-offs despite being a vastly inferior team to the Hawks in the regular season. Expect their performance to regress at some point. I give the edge at ES to Chicago.
On the power play, both clubs have been fantastic in both the regular season and the playoffs. The Blackhawks have had a little more luck with the extra man than Philly. On the penalty-kill, however, Chicago has been the best 4-on-5 team in the league in both the regular season and the playoffs while the Flyers have dramatically outperformed their regular season mark. The ‘Hawks PK gives them the edge here too.
In net, both goaltenders have been dramatically outplaying their regular season performance in the playoffs. Leighton has a 94.7% save rate at ES in the playoffs versus a 89.4% regular season clip.
Niemi on the other hand has a 92.2% ES save rate in the playoffs versus his 90.6% regular season number. It’s unlikely that either player can keep up the fantastic run, but Leighton likely has a lot farther to fall from his current perch. Again, I’d give the edge to the Blackhawks.
As for individual players, there are still a few that seem to stick out.
Despite Dustin Byfuglien’s fantastically “clutch” play against San Jose, he’s still due for big production in the finals. I called it that way in the Conference Finals and I’m calling it again. Byfuglien is still at a Corsi of +22.6 / 60 minutes and a tiny PDO of 932.
As for the Flyers, I’m going to tag Ville Leino for a reverse-breakout in the series. Leino is definitely one of Philly’s best possession-driving forwards with a Corsi of +5.1 / 60 but is currently sporting a PDO of 1068 on the back of a 13.7% shooting percentage. These results are likely the result of some luck, so I don’t see Leino continuing this level of performance.
In the end, it seems painfully obvious to me that the Blackhawks have the edge in this series, so I’m picking them to win. That said, the Canadiens were the same type of underdog to both the Capitals and Penguins. Hopefully we all get an entertaining final, everyone except Leaf fans that is.