NHL's best forwards in tough situations: Datsyuk, Zetterberg … Gomez?

goalmez.jpgEvery now and then, we’ll try to go deeper than the every day stats talk you normally see. After all, hockey is a sport where a lot happens that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard. One of the increasingly useful ways to gauge a player’s usefulness (and transcendence) comes in looking at who they play against and in which situations they come onto the ice. 

Oilers blog the Copper & Blue is one of the leading sites for hockey stats nerds like myself and they didn’t disappoint today with a post regarding which players thrive amid the toughest competition.

It’s not too surprising to see Detroit’s brilliant forward duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top of the list since they’re often considered elite two-way players. Other names like Eric Staal, Mike Richards and Daniel Alfredsson make plenty of sense too. That doesn’t mean that the list lacks surprises though, including ones that could change your viewpoints of a few oft-critiqued (or completely ignored) players. Here’s a few of Derek Zona’s observations.

I said last year that I was stunned that Stephen Weiss was the 4th-best player on the list. This year, he’s up to 3rd. I took a deeper look at Weiss and noted that he was outscoring the biggest names in the game each year and I still find it hard to believe just how good Weiss is and how under-recognized he is.

Scott Gomez takes a beating from NHL fans for his lack of goal-scoring and Bob Gainey took a beating for the trade that he made to acquire Gomez, but Gomez is the goods. He may not score goals, but his defensive prowess and playmaking ability are top notch. His performance in New York was supposed to be a by-product of Henrik Lundqvist, but the numbers in Montreal show differently. Gomez is an even strength demon.

Jochen Hecht is one of those bargains on this list. Though he’s thought of as a role player in a very specifically defined and extremely narrow scope, in reality, Hecht is an excellent even strength player.

Seeing Weiss at No. 3 on that list is possibly the most surprising development, as he seems (on paper at least) to be something of a bust in a parade of drafting blunders by the Florida Panthers. While I have noticed that Scott Gomez was playing well in the playoffs, I’m also among the hordes of bloggers who lampooned his huge contract. (And let’s not be too hasty to say it still isn’t a bit rich.)

Stats aren’t everything, but they can often provide a crucial dollop of cold, hard reality while raw perception can often be plagued by personal prejudices. I, for one, will have to hesitate the next time I make fun of Gomez or Weiss. Not to say that I won’t make fun of them again altogether but … baby steps, right?

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    Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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    What a start.

    This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

    This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

    What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

    This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

    There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

    Twice:

    If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

    NOTES:

    Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

    — Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

    — Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

    — This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

    — Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

    Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

    Wilson hit
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    Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

    You can see that incident below:

    Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

    Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

    This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

    In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

    Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

    Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

    Oshie goal
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    For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

    Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

    In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

    After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

    Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

    Beagle
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    Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

    Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: