Defense (and goaltending) wins championships? Well, based on this year’s playoffs — particularly in the Western Conference — that’s a strong argument. This season, a total of 30 players scored at least 30 goals. Depending on how today’s two Game 7s go, there could be as few as four 30 goals-scorers in the second round. In the West, it’s even more stark. In the regular season, 12 players scored at least 30 goals. Six of them (Corey Perry, Michael Ryder, Jordan Eberle, Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash) missed the playoffs entirely. Five more (Patrick Sharp, Logan Couture, Daniel Sedin, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski) were eliminated in the first round. Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata is the only 30-goal scorer on any of the four remaining Western Conference playoff teams. I asked Rob Scuderi what he thought that meant. Is it a victory for defense and goaltending, or just a coincidence?
SCUDERI: “It’s certainly not a coincidence. The years I had with Pittsburgh, we had some prolific guys on the offensive side of the puck, but defensively, we had a great goaltender and we played great team defense. Even as well as they did offensively this year, if you look at that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series, the team that won has the team that finally was able to keep it to a couple goals (against).”
Question: Is a maybe a victory for depth, too? Not just having one great line but three or four good ones?
SCUDERI: “Depth goes a long way in the playoffs. You can key in on matchups, especially when you’re the home team, and if those guys aren’t able to break through the line, and the D pairing that the coach wants to play against those guys, not to mention probably a hot goaltender at this time of the year, it’s that much more of a plus to have guys who can fill the net every once in a while.”
The Kings’ leading scorer this season, Anze Kopitar, had 25 goals, while St. Louis’ leading scorer, David Backes, had 24. In terms of goals scored in the Western Conference, Nashville finished fourth, Phoenix finished sixth, St. Louis finished ninth and the Kings finished 14th. Defensively, in terms of goals allowed, St. Louis was first, the Kings were second, Phoenix was fifth and Nashville was sixth. High-scoring teams: out. Good defensive teams: still playing. Darryl Sutter sort of went both ways on this topic…
SUTTER: “It’s still better to have all those goal scorers, right? [grins] You look at our series that we just finished, and you want to handle the three big guys on their team, even though Ryan (Kesler) didn’t have as big a year, numbers-wise. Even-strength goals, they didn’t score one, the Sedins and Ryan. On our side of it, we got five goals from Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner, Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson. So, it’s not always about stars. In fact, we just showed that it wasn’t.”