Thursday, April 30, 2009

Versus, Don't Miss A Second-- Miss Entire Periods!

I thought I'd post this here, too, as there is a general CLS hatred of Versus and Joe may miss a game this series because of them.

So, checking the Anaheim Calling inbox this morning, I found a message from a Versus rep, inquiring into whether or not Daniel and I would like to be pimped-

--ahem --

That is, whether or not we'd like to participate in an NHL on Versus promotion. Rather than give them a straightforward 'yes' or 'no,' Daniel and I thought we'd do an honest write up, and then take it from there.

So, Daniel, as someone trying to watch the Ducks games from an Illinois grad school-- who ended up missing the 1st period of Game 6 on Monday --what's your beef with Versus?

Well, first let me start by saying that I had prepped a meal for puck drop and everything. So, here I am with taquitos and guacamole that I made from scratch-- God that sounds so stereotypical --rocking my Ducks sweater, only to have the Blackhawks on Versus AND the local channel. Now, I can understand feeding the Blackhawks game to Illinois if there is no local coverage, but if there IS local coverage, why am I watching the Hawks game on two channels when there's a deciding game in another series? I could have been on Hockey overload. My cable guide said I should have been watching the Ducks game. I'm just wondering how Versus is going to let me know, as a fan, which game I will be watching.

Yeah, there's a lot of that sort of mismanagement. I also don't see how their advertising campaign was "Don't Miss A Second," and then on the night playoffs start, we missed the 1st period of the last two games. They missed 2,400 seconds on the first night of play!

Though, in their defense, they're a startup cable network with ONE channel trying to manage the rights to air three hockey games in one night. But let me just say this, and you know what I'm going to say: hockey fans were spoiled by the TV deals in the '90s.

Oh, here we go. Are you going to be preaching for long? Should I get a drink and come back?

When they signed with FOX in '94, the NHL hadn't been on network TV from 1981 to 1989, and they hadn't signed a long-term deal since they left CBS in 1972. That's 22 years out of the spotlight.

Now, I grew up in the Bay Area in the 80s. We had no team, and I had no cable. No USA network. No ESPN network. Certainly no Sportschannel America. And so, no NHL. And there was a time when that was the story: if you moved away from Canada/the Canadian border or a major hockey market, then you lived in a hockey-less world. Even if you had cable, you got a handful of games and the channel that carried the NHL kept changing.

So, you can't convince me that no coverage is better than coverage. The NHL went a long time without any kind of TV deal, at all. And since Bettman scorned FOX and refused to give ABC a discount, he's stuck with NBC and Versus. He may end up putting every non-Finals game on Center Ice or NHLTV, and out-of-market fans will have to pay just to watch the playoffs.

Okay, I'll admit that hockey fans have come to expect a little more from hockey TV coverage after the 90s, but is that really an excuse for Versus not to get their act together?

I grew up on ESPN double headers and NHL2Night. I think Versus can do a lot more in terms of coverage. Even a nightly show a la NHL2Night would go a long way in keeping more viewers interested in the few games they can actually watch. I'm saying that Versus may have limited resources, but there's certainly more they can give us to make sure fans see a little more hockey related content on a regular basis. Plus, it'll increase general traffic for their channel and possibly raise viewership for the more obscure sports the station airs.

Well, I definitely agree that it does wonders for the NHL and its stars to show Ovechkin's and Malkin's highlights every night, and break them down for the casual fans. I don't know how much it would cost to produce an NHL2Night. Maybe not more than that Sports Soup show that Versus has, and maybe it's a wise investment with how much they're paying for their TV contract with the league. But that's all assuming Versus WANTS to invest in its NHL coverage.

Let me break you off with a little trivia, here. First of the major sports broadcast on ESPN? NHL games. They negotiated TV contracts with the Whalers and Capitals. Versus is probably using the NHL the same way that ESPN did back then. They're just trying to show the other major sports that they can handle a broadcast. I'm sure they don't want Bettman any more than he wants them.

That's a fair observation; I certainly don't think Versus treats hockey like a flagship sport. Not the way a TNT treats the NBA. I know TNT doesn't have a nightly NBA show, but they have programs other than sports. Versus advertises itself as a sports channel. They don't have to go ad nauseum like ESPN, but give me something.

TNT at least has a great personality that mixes things up for the rest of the group, one Sir Charles Barkley. That's the main difference between what happens with other sports and what happens with the Versus coverage. The Versus crew doesn't have a lot of personality. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a bunch of guys who know nothing about hockey. Not because the info isn't good. Engblom, Clement, and Jones know their stuff. They just never seem comfortable in front of the camera. They laugh awkwardly and just aren't engaging. I teach public speaking, and I'm not convinced these guys took it in high school or college. They stare at the camera and they seem to get excited about all the wrong things. I don't know. I'm just never excited when I watch the games, and I don't feel like I get the insight into the game that I do when I listen to Hayzie (Brian Hayward for those of you unfortunate enough to not know who he is). I know a lot of fans don't like Hayzie, and think he's a homer, but you haven't heard these midwest commentators. These motherf***ers are something else.

I agree that the Versus crew needs a Barry Melrose-type, but here's the thing, how easy was it for ESPN to replace Barry Melrose this year? Suddenly, Scott Burnside *shivers* is a hockey expert? Maybe there aren't a lot of old NHL coaches/players that have personality.

At the end of the day, Versus is not avoiding those basic scheduling mistakes that plague an upstart cable network and they need to invest in more NHL programming and better color guys. BUT I'm glad someone's carrying hockey, and really, it's not their fault that a fledgling network has to carry the majority of the NHL programming. It's Bettman's.

That is the truth, and we, as Hockey fans, just have to deal with Bettman's mistakes...all the time. I hate that guy.

Okay. Keep this in mind, folks, Arthur and I will be doing a split experience for Game 3 at the Ponda Center (eat it Honda that stadium will forever be the Pond and y'all just piss me off) for CLS. That is, I will be talking about what it's like watching the game on Versus, and Arthur will be providing you with his analysis as a live fan. It's gonna be different-- we hope --and hopefully you all will enjoy it. This was Anaheim Calling to the Hockey world. Enjoy your playoffs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chris Pronger: Wing-killer extraordinaire?

Chris Pronger is quite probably the most hated player in the NHL.  He's certainly at the top of the list for Detroit fans among active players, at least.  I'm not counting Claude Lemieux as active here,  as playing half a season in limited action hardly qualifies.  As Earl Sleek likes to remind us over at the Battle of California, Pronger has been very heavily involved in both playoff eliminations of the Red Wings since the lockout.  Given that Pronger will probably be the single biggest obstacle to the Red Wings this series, except for the man in the Anaheim net, I thought it would be interesting to see exactly what Pronger's total career performance has been against the Wings.  First, lets look at every single playoff series that Chris Pronger has been involved in against the Red Wings.


1995-96 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (5) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 7  

1996-97 1st round (3) Detroit vs (6) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

1997-98 2nd round (3) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

2001-02 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 5 

2005-06 1st round (1) Detroit vs (8) Edmonton, Edmonton wins in 6

2006-07 3rd round (1) Detroit vs (2) Anaheim, Anaheim wins in 6 


So this obviously gives Chris Pronger a 2-4 record against the Big Red Machine, losing all 4 series as a part of the St. Louis Blues, and then winning his last two as part of the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks.  Let's break this down and get his individual stats for each series.  


1995-96 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (5) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 7  

G1: 0G 1A -1 4 shot 0 PIM

G2: 0G 1A -3 2 shot 4 PIM

G3: 0G 1A even 0 shot 2 PIM

G4: 0G 0A even 1 shot 0 PIM

G5: 0G 0A +1 1 shot 0 PIM

G6: 0G 0A even 3 shot 0 PIM

G7: 0G 0A even 0 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 3A -3 11 shots 6 PIM


1996-97 1st round (3) Detroit vs (6) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

Unfortunately, it seems that box scores from the 1997 playoffs are not available.  However, because the Blues lost to the Wings in the first round, we can get Pronger's total numbers for the series from his playoff numbers.  

TOTAL: 1G 1A even 19 shots 22 PIM


1997-98 2nd round (3) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 6 

G1: 0G 1A +1 1 shot 2 PIM

G2: 0G 1A -1 1 shot 4 PIM

G3: 0G 1A -1 2 shot 2 PIM

G4: 0G 0A +1 3 shots 2 PIM

G5: 0G 0A even 1 shot 6 PIM

G6: 0G 1A -2 4 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 4A -2 12 shots 16 PIM


2001-02 2nd round (1) Detroit vs (4) St. Louis, Detroit wins in 5 

G1: 0G 0A even 3 shots 16 PIM (misconduct)

G2: 0G 1A +1 4 shot 0 PIM

G3: 0G 3A +2 1 shot 0 PIM

G4: 0G 1A even 1 shot 2 PIM (Torn ACL for trying to kill a one-legged Yzerman)


TOTAL: 0G 5A +3 9 shots 18 PIM (Plus a torn ACL)


2005-06 1st round (1) Detroit vs (8) Edmonton, Edmonton wins in 6 

G1: 1G 0A -2 2 shot 0 PIM

G2: 1G 1A +4 6 shot 0 PIM

G3: 0G 1A +1 1 shot 0 PIM

G4: 0G 0A even 4 shot 0 PIM

G5: 0G 3A even 0 shot 0 PIM

G6: 0G 0A +1 0 shot 4 PIM

TOTAL: 2G 5A +4 13 shots 4 PIM


2006-07 3rd round (1) Detroit vs (2) Anaheim, Anaheim wins in 6 

G1: 0G 0A even 5 shot 0 PIM

G2: 0G 1A +1 5 shots 4 PIM

G3: 0G 0A even 3 shot 4 PIM (Niedermayer blamed for another 15 PIM)

G4: DID NOT PLAY (Suspended)

G5: 0G 1A even 3 shot 4 PIM

G6: 0G 1A +1 2 shot 0 PIM

TOTAL: 0G 3A +2 18 shots 12 PIM (Plus a suspension and should've had another 15 PIM)



34GP 3G-21A-24P +4 82 SOG 78PIM (+15PIM, a suspension, and a torn ACL)


Just a quick look at the stats on a per-series basis makes it pretty clear that Pronger has had much more success both individually and from a team perspective beginning after the STL years, or maybe including that 01-02 STL/DET series.  This also coincides with his beginning to be nominated (and winning) the Norris and Hart trophies. So I'm going to try making two splits of stats here.  One for his totals pre-STL and one for post STL.  I will also try one for pre-2001-02 and one for 01-02 and later.  Presumably, since Pronger had risen to being an elite defenseman in the NHL in 2000, with two major trophy wins, his performance in 01-02 against the Wings should be comparable to what he has done in more recent years.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to TOI data for most of these series, so I'll be figuring things on a per-game basis


Stuck with STL: 23 GP / 1G 13A 14P (0.61 P/game) / -2 / 62 PIM (2.70 PIM/game)

Free from STL: 11 GP / 2G 8 A 10P (0.91 P/game) / +6 / 16 PIM (1.45 PIM/game)


Right there we can see a pretty amazing difference in terms of his per-game performance and his plus/minus.  His points per game went up by nearly 50%, while his official PIMs went down by nearly half.  If you factor in the 15 minutes that were incorrectly given to Niedermayer though, plus the resulting suspension, his PIMs stayed right on target.  Obviously, this split is somewhat stunted as most of his STL series against the Wings came before Pronger had really risen to that elite group of defensemen, and before STL's peak years, which ran from roughly 1999-2002.  Let's try specifically splitting this by timeline instead of team:


1995-98: 19 GP / 1G 8A 9P (0.47 P/game) / -5 / 44 PIM (2.32 PIM/game)

2001-07: 15 GP / 2G 13A 15P (1.0 P/game) / +9 / 34 PIM (2.27 PIM/game)


Whoa.  The difference between those splits is more than twice as many P/game, +14 on the +/-, and PIMs stay roughly the same, but if you apply the extra +15 PIM, you get 49 PIM (3.27 PIM/game).  That's a pretty big step up in Pronger's game, all around.  Unfortunately, I'm not the best at statistical analysis, and am also lacking in some of the info needed to properly figure out some more defensive-oriented stats, particularly for the earlier matchups.  Based on personal anecdotal experience however, I feel pretty confident in saying that just as much as Pronger's easy counting numbers have gotten better, so has his un-counted defensive contributions.  This is probably most evident in 2006-07 when he was not on the ice for a single PP or ES goal against (though he was out for a SH goal), even though the Wings did outscore the Ducks throughout that series.  


The one weakness that becomes visible in this overview is Pronger's tendency to play undisciplined hockey.  He tore his ACL in 2002 by trying to make a very late and very high hit on Steve Yzerman, who at the time was playing on a knee that would require reconstructive surgery in the offseason.  Yzerman ducked the hit, sending Pronger over him, causing the knee injury.  That 2002 Wings team was obscenely good, and odds are the Blues wouldn't have been able to stop them anyways, but Pronger's injury certainly didn't help.  In 2007, Pronger earned his first of two suspensions that playoff year for elbowing, when he and Scott Niedermayer combined on a hit on Tomas Holmstrom along the boards, where Pronger made sure he drove his elbow through Holmstrom's head.  Even looking through all the individual box scores for these series, I kept seeing a lot of "Pronger (slashing)" calls, along with several trips and roughing calls.  


The Red Wings main avenue for beating Pronger will simply have be to annoy him into taking stupid penalties.  Darren Helm might see a lot of Pronger in this series, as his speed will likely allow him to draw a penalty or two against Pronger, as well as his attitude.  It would also behoove Babcock to be vocal in the media about the refs keeping an eye on Pronger too.  Pronger will do stupid things away from the play, and if Babcock can get the refs to keep an extra eye on him, it might result in an extra PP or two over the course of the series, that the Wings would not have otherwise gotten.  In this series, one or two power play opportunities either way might be the difference between a Western Conference Final and a tee time.  


My intention in writing this post was to examine Chris Pronger's reputation as a "Wing-killer" as its been promoted over on the Battle of California.  Having followed every one of these series as a Wings fan, I've felt that Pronger was certainly a very good defenseman, but wasn't sure I believed that Pronger necessarily led the charge as much as he was a part of it on the back end.  Looking at these numbers though, it certainly looks like Pronger's performance against the Wings in the playoffs rose sensibly as his performance in general in the NHL also rose, taking him to one of the top 3 spots on the CLS all-decade team.  Asshole he may be, Pronger is certainly a mountain of an obstacle to a Wings team looking to repeat as Cup champions.  



Big thanks to the Hockey Summary Project.  Their box scores made this post possible, and I think I may do similar posts in the future.  Adam Deadmarsh comes to mind as another Wing-killer who I'd like to examine.  

The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit: or

Anaheim Calling's Keys To The Series For The Ducks

Hello all. This is Arthur-

[interrupting] And Daniel.

[laughing] and Daniel from Anaheim Calling.

James O'Brien, your master of blogomonies here at CLS, graciously invited us to act as your Ducks correspondents for the Wings/Ducks WCSF series. We happily accepted.

We're on here with Joe, who I've chatted with, informally, on the message boards at Battle of California. I think I've gained his respect for knowing my hockey, which should compensate for any respect I may have lost by virtue of being a Ducks fan. And knowing our hockey is really what Daniel and I focus on at our blog. We're not big on being clever or funny from post to post; we just want to talk hockey.

So, let's talk hockey. The NHL's policy of reseeding forces an 8th seed to navigate Scylla AND Charybdis to win the Cup. Though the Ducks got past the Presidents' Trophy winning Sharks, they have drawn the equally deadly Red Wings in the second round. As with Anaheim's first round opponent, there are no statistical upsides for the Ducks. Daniel, if Anaheim is going to make a series out of this, what do you see as the keys to this matchup?

First, I dislike Detroit about as much as, if not more than, I dislike San Jose. This is also a great time to mention that there are something around 6-8 teams in the NHL that I hate, but I will not divulge all of them. Of all those teams, I have the fondest/worst memories of the Red Wings. Despite the chatter that will definitely come out of Detroit, and they deserve it since they are an Original Six and one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports, I will simply point out that in terms of playoff meetings, the all time series is tied 2-2, which makes winning this one very important. Having said all of that, there are 4 keys to this series for the Ducks.

1) Control the Crease: Don't let Holmstrom set up a daycare in front of the net, where he gets to pat every Red Wing on the back on their way to Hiller's face. The Red Wings aren't a great playoff team because they are loaded with talent up-front, it's because that talent isn't afraid of going into the nasty areas and scoring ugly goals. Rebounds need to be cleared and red jerseys need to be covered in crease snow. If Anaheim doesn't control the crease, their chances of winning this series become almost nonexistent.

2) Get to Osgood Early: Despite having his name on the Cup some 3 times, I've never been convinced Osgood was a big time goalie. I'm not saying he can't stand on his head and make a great save or two, I just think he's had a history of getting rattled and showing that if you can get to him and figure him out, scoring becomes less of a problem and the Red Wings become more susceptible to the 5-4, or 6-5 loss. I know they won a 6-5 game against Columbus, but we aren't the Blue Jackets. The Ducks gave up more than 2 goals only once in the first round against one of the best scoring teams in the league. If Osgood and the Wings know that scoring won't be a problem for us, maybe they squeeze the sticks a little harder.

3) Stay out of the Box: I know we say it a lot, but I mean it this time. I'm not as concerned about the Red Wing powerplay as I am about not being able to sustain pressure and punish that aging Detroit blue line. Our game is cycle down low, wear down the D and take the puck hard to the net. If we're in the box too much, we won't be able to control the flow of play, and that's our game. Not to mention that Detroit doesn't have the history of playoff failure that San Jose did. The Red Wings won't be nervous about getting it done. They'll go in for the kill.

4) Win an early one in Detroit: We need to win one of the first 2 in Detroit, and let the Red Wings know how serious we are. Detroit's fans may think we're an upstart crew that doesn't have a chance, but Babcock knows better. If we can get into this series early and don't have to climb a mountain, then we put pressure on the top seeded team. And as every pundit from here to eternity pointed out last round and will point out this round, should the opportunity arise, we are 9-0 when deciding a series on our ice. If we make sure it's a series early and can at least get the chance to close it out on our ice, it'll go a long way to improving our chances of seeing the Conference Finals.

1) Beat the Computer: Babcock loves discipline. The Red Wings are a disciplined team, who play his system faithfully. The only way to beat a computerized team is to take shots from everywhere. Take low-percentage shots that are high-percentage for rebounds. Be puck hounds, and force the defense to keep their heads on a swivel. Detroit is going to play solid positional defense, and try to lock off the high percentage chances. Take what they give you, and make them regret it.

2) Osgood - Beat The Kick Save and Shoot From The Circles: Joe and I talked recently about the '99 trade deadline when Bowman went out to get Bill Ranford. That's the story of Osgood's career. He won a Cup behind Vernon and a Cup on his own, but his coach was convinced that he couldn't get it done. In my opinion, it was Osgood's trademarked kick save that got him in trouble. In New York, he revitalized his career with that save. He sent the puck wherever he wanted it to go, and was always there for the rebound. Old habits die hard though, and if Anaheim can get the inconsistent kick save to rear its ugly head, the Ducks can put the Red Wings on their heels.

Also, the Ducks will want to test Osgood from distance. Really, that's all Carolina did to Brodeur in the Devils/Canes series. Osgood had solid games against Columbus, and he's moving well laterally. However, he misjudged a couple of shots from around the circles, and may be willing to give up a few more that way.

3) No Dumb Penalties: It's really not worth saying. It's not going to happen. I could even point out that the Red Wings were 7 for 22 against Columbus, but that doesn't make the dream any more attainable. But I think the Ducks can still win the series if the majority of their penalties are taken in the defensive zone.

[DET @ ANA 10-29-08]

4) Ryan Getzlaf - The entire video above is really worth watching. First, because Getzlaf scores 5 assists and no goals. But second, because on the Ducks' 4th goal, Getzlaf swats Kronwall off of him and onto the ice. That's what Ryan Getzlaf does. He doesn't cheapshot you or elbow you, but if you're a smaller guy, he'll make you feel his size. Detroit added yet ANOTHER gamechanger in Hossa, but Getzlaf has shown he's capable of changing games himself, even against the mighty Red Wings.

Wings/Ducks round 2 schedule is up

Per Puck Daddy

Game 1: Friday, May 1, 2009 Anaheim at Detroit                 
Game 2: Sunday, May 3, 2009 Anaheim at Detroit                 
Game 3: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 Detroit at Anaheim                         
Game 4: Thursday, May 7, 2009 Detroit at Anaheim                         
Game 5: *Sunday, May 10, 2009  Anaheim at Detroit                         
Game 6: *Tuesday, May 12, 2009  Detroit at Anaheim                         
Game 7: *Thursday, May 14, 2009  Anaheim at Detroit
* = if necessary (and they will be necessary)

Fortunately, with the Wings having home ice in their series, and the Canucks having home ice in theirs, things should work out such that when the Nucks/Hawks series stops being on the West Coast, this series will move there, and vice versa.  This should make it pretty easy for Versus to get most of each of those series on nationally.  None of the @ Detroit games conflicts at all with the Pens/Caps series.  However, all 4 @ Detroit dates do conflict with the Boston/Carolina series, so we'll probably get fucked out of a game or two there.  Fuck you, Versus.  

On a random note, last year, the NHL sent its golden boy into the finals against the Red Wings.  The Wings promptly thumped Crosby right back out of the playoffs.  Wouldn't it be interesting (and absolutely maddening to Bettman) if the Wings make it to the finals again, perhaps against the other most marketable star in the sport, and chuck the Capitals out?  Consecutive years against the NHL's most marketable players, and both times the bad guys win?  Once Washington made it through NYR last night, this occurred to me.  I doubt they make it that far, but it would be an interesting storyline.