Health will likely determine Cup Champ

Posted: March 31, 2012 by centennialsports in Puck

By John Spurr

In hockey the adage is that “goaltending wins championships.” While I don’t dispute this, it seems that having a healthy

Team Doctors could be the MVP of any cup run

team is becoming more important to a team’s post-season run than ever before. Therefore, I feel that this year’s Stanley Cup champion will be decided by the team that is able to avoid injuries and dress their best players late into the playoffs.

With the increased intensity of playoff games and the accelerated schedule during the post-season, the run for the cup is thoroughly demanding and is becoming more and more difficult to navigate while remaining healthy.

Last year the Vancouver Canucks were too depleted from injuries, to outlast the punishing style of the Boston Bruins and lost the Stanley Cup in seven games to Boston. Vancouver had documented injuries to 13 of the 20 players that dressed in game seven and were unable to put up much of a fight in the deciding game.

The playoff grind is so fierce and exhausting because of the magnitude of every play. The competition level is intensified and requires physical sacrifices in order to win just a single game. Injuries are sure to pile up throughout the playoffs, even for the healthiest teams, but this year many teams are already limping into the playoffs.

A healthy Crosby likely means we will be seeing this image again in June

Going into this year’s cup run it seems as if most teams have a crucial player or two who are already injured or have been for a significant period of the season. Players like Crosby, Toews, Lidstrom and Daniel Sedin have serious health concerns before entering into the grind that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The team that manages to remain healthy and have their key players in the lineup will be the team that is able to advance deep into the playoffs. The Blackhawks without Toews don’t stand a chance, neither do the Canucks sans Daniel Sedin.

Conversely, several teams have the advantage of possessing really deep rosters and may be able to overcome injuries more than others. I point to the St Louis Blues and Nashville Predators as examples of deep teams that aren’t reliant on elite players to carry their teams.

Nashville and St Louis are built similarly, from the back end out. Both enjoy superb goaltending, have a strong defensive core and have defensively responsible forwards that are relatively void of star power. They play a tight checking system and their forward lines are largely interchangeable.

Another familiar sight by the time May rolls around

Still an injury to a key defenseman like Shea Weber or Alex Pietrangelo would cripple these teams almost to the same degree that losing a superstar forward would hurt most other playoff teams. They are both the quarterbacks of their teams’ power-plays, play on the penalty kill and lead their teams in time on ice. Obviously they are invaluable pieces to their teams but are not in the mold of the league’s conventional stars.

To endure the marathon that is the Stanley Cup playoffs the teams will need their full arsenal of talent, any team with too many injuries will be shaving their beards and hitting the links.

  1. missgia says:

    I agree about your bit about Nashville and St Louis not having any particular “stars” so they are less likely to be effected and you are totally on point about the fact that if a key defenseman is injured it could incurably cripple their chances. You only have to look at Montreal as an example of that as they are another team with a lack of conventional stars.This year Markov didn’t come back until a couple games ago and he was/is a key part of their powerplay, a powerplay that has ranked them at the bottom of the league for most of the season. Even though Montreal has continuously had the best penalty kill in the league, and Price’s save % is .91 plus they have a couple of 30+ goal scorers they have lossed a large number of their games to one game deficits simply because they couldn’t capitalize on their powerplay. Since Markov has returned their powerplay has improved exponentially but sadly it is too late.

    What would be your favourite matchups to watch in each conference? Right now as it sits I think the Penguins/Flyers series will be the most interesting. I may be a little eastern conference biased though.

  2. spurzo says:

    Nashville v Detroit will be an interesting series too. Holland was apparently the most vocal GM against allowing the return of Radulov, so there is some behind the scenes drama already there. The 4 v 5 in both conferences look like the best matchups, as I guess it should be, kudos to you NHL. Thanks for the comments.

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