After a down-to-the-wire match, the playoff seeds are settled, and it’s time to take an in-depth look at the matchups. First up: Chris takes on Rhys
Rhys (1st seed) vs. Chris (4th seed)
Rhys had a pretty dominant year in the skating stats, coming in first place in Goals, Assists, PPP, SHP and SOG. He also came first in ATOI and second in FOW. In fact, Plus/Minus is really is only weakness, finishing out the year just over par at +7.
Chris was a lot more middle of the pack, anywhere between 3-5th for skaters. Where he really shone was goaltending; Chris finished out the year second in GAA and first in SV%. This is where Rhys was weakest, finishing 5th in both categories, although weirdly Rhys came in third for wins with 68, while Chris was fourth with 61.
All in all, Rhys carries a statistical advantage going into this matchup, clearly leading in 5 categories (G, A, PPP, SHP, SOG) while Chris leads in 2 (GAA, SV%) with 4 up for grabs (+/-, FOW, ATOI, W).
Key Players to Watch
28 G | 33 A | +14 | 23 PPP | 3 SHP | 946 FOW | 19:49 | 233 SOG | 21.82 PR16
Patrice Bergeron ended the year with an astounding player rating of 21.82, easily beating the field and one of only two players to rate above 20. As one of the best faceoff men in the game, he plays in all situations and contributes a ton of offense, resulting in points collected in every category.
25 G | 37 A | -2 | 24 PPP |2 SHP | 1 FOW | 26:08 | 288 SOG | 15.09 PR16
With some key injuries on his blueline, Rhys is going to need a massive couple weeks from Brent Burns. Burns has the highest ATOI on Rhys’ team, and he’s going to need all of it to make up for what is lost.
12 G | 58 A | -4 | 24 PPP |2 SHP | 1 FOW | 29:05 | 211 SOG | 11.94 PR16
If Erik Karlsson doesn’t win the Norris this year, it’ll be an absolute travesty. He’s having one of the best offensive defenseman years since the Lidstrom era, and he shows no signs of slowing down. He’s 4th in the NHL in scoring! As a defenseman! Insane.
31 W | 2.35 GAA | .922 SV% | 11.43 PR16
Henrik Lundqvist started the season as a tandem with Corey Schneider on Rhys’ team, and came to Chris mid-season. He’s been great since that trade, and has stabilized Chris’ blueline after Carey Price went down with injury. Interestingly, Marc-Andre Fleury has almost identical stats to Lundqvist, although is save percentage is a fraction lower at .921.
Corey Schneider has been a beast this year, sporting a 2.17 GAA and .923 SV%. And now he’s out with an MCL sprain, and possibly done for the season. Quite a hit for Rhys to take a week before the playoffs.
TJ Brodie has been a stalwart of Rhys’ blueline since December, but he’s currently day-to-day with an upper body injury. He’s missed 2 games so far, and the earliest he could be back is Wednesday. Brodie logs a ton of minutes, so Rhys’ ATOI will suffer the longer Brodie is out.
Another huge lost for Rhys: Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been out since getting injured vs. Colorado on March 7th, and is doubtful to return before this Thursday. Not only is he a minute-eating defenseman, he scores goals and quarterbacks the powerplay.
John Klingberg has been a perpetual Norris candidate all season, and currently sits third in defensemen scoring. He was injured March 4th, and hasn’t been spotted at practice since.
Patrick Sharp has been out even longer, since March 1st, with a lower body injury. He’s tentatively expected to return sometime this week, but it remains to be seen. With the Stars sitting pretty comfortably in a playoff spot, the team will not want to rush him back.
Will Carey Price play again this year? That’s the big question. With Montreal clearly out of the playoff picture, he may just be shut down for the year. But if he returns, that gives Chris the clear goaltending advantage.
Rhys’ Road to Victory
For Rhys, it’s going to be a lot of “keep doing what you’re doing”. His lineup has proven to be successful this year, and by consistently cycling new players through the bottom three roster slots, he has been able to add quite a few extra points in the standings. Rhys made a league-leading 97 moves this season (including trades and acquisitions/demotions), and with 14 available over the two week matchup, we can expect him to use much of them again.
Rhys needs to be at least competitive in the goaltending categories, and while Jake Allen and Roberto Luongo isn’t a bad tandem, he’s clearly starting from a place of weakness. Fortunately, goaltending can be unpredictable, and winning these categories is absolutely possible.
Lastly, getting Brodie and Ekman-Larsson back from injury will be a big boost to Rhys’ blueline. His ATOI will be substantially lower without them, and Chris is no slouch in that category.
Chris’ Road to Victory
For Chris, it’s going to come down to bold moves with high reward, trying to capture enough categories to squeak out a victory. Chris has the clear advantage in the goal crease, but he must be aggressive in chasing the other categories as well.
With Rhys’ key defensive injuries, Chris has a clear shot to steal ATOI and Assists, especially if Klingberg comes back soon. Plus/Minus and SHP are basically a coin flip from week to week, and FOW are easily within reach. A guy like Tyler Toffoli and his +28 could really swing this match. If everything breaks right, Chris could end up with a fairly comfortable victory.
Of course, it’s not likely to be that easy. If Chris does win, it’ll likely come right down to the wire.