In reviewing the scoring chances for the Chicago - San Jose series, we've been able to discredit the notion that Dave Bolland won the battle against Joe Thornton. Yes, Bolland was starting in his own end constantly, but he was still being beaten on the chances sheet. It was luck and Antti Niemi that saved his bacon. Like the Avalanche fans before them, the Blackhawks' fans that encountered the scoring chances articles took umbrage with the numbers and bristled at the suggestion that the story they were being fed by the media was wrong.
Seeing as how this story was so far off, I decided to check the scoring chances in the Chicago - Vancouver series, specifically Bolland's head-to-head performance against Canucks' center Henrik Sedin. Did Bolland's playoff reputation grow out of the Vancouver series, or was it yet another example of getting the story wrong?
Through the course of this series, Bolland and Sedin were matched against each other for nearly 49 minutes at even strength. Sedin spent 59.1% of his time against Bolland and Bolland spent 64.6% of his time against Sedin. Interestingly, Bolland was matched against Sedin a higher percentage of his time on ice on the road as compared to his time on ice at home. I'm not sure what to make of that; either Alain Vigneault didn't care that Sedin was out against Bolland, or he was being out-coached by Joel Quenneville.
I took the chances from Scott Reynolds' scoring chance totals for the series, summarized here. You'll notice that Bolland was 19/22 at even strength for the series - Sedin was 27/26.
Two games were a wash, Bolland was +4 once, Sedin was +4 once and Bolland won the other two games 3/2. Bolland edged out Sedin in the head-to-head matchup, and neutralized Vancouver's best line over the last three games. It was a great job by the Bolland line, and Joel Quenneville clearly came out on top in this match-up, especially because it allowed him to create mismatches with the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp lines.
Away from Sedin, Bolland was 2/7 and Sedin was 12/9.
Sedin's chances for per fifteen minutes in this series was a microscopic 2.73. As a comparison, 2.73/15 was lower than ANY regular Edmonton Oiler for the entire season, and equal to Dean Arsene's rate in his brief stint in the NHL. A rough estimate would put Sedin's reduced playoff rate at about 35-40% of his regular season rate. That is remarkable work by Dave Bolland's line.
I fully expect Chicago fans to tell me that the numbers are still lying. That Bolland wasn't effective against Sedin. Or that the numbers aren't capturing the true match-up. Or that Sedin really won this match-up. How about it fellas?
When the two series are compared, it seems like the media and fans simply extended the Bolland narrative against Thornton, then used Thornton's faceoff slash as evidence that Bolland was succeeding. I've written about this before:
Fans, by and large, rely on what they see, and make snap decisions based on short bursts of data. From the time that decision is made, a fan will see what they expect to see, that is, they begin to notice the events and data that confirm the observations that led to their conclusion. They begin to seek new information to confirm their pre-existing bias, subconsciously ignoring the entire data set, especially the pieces that disagree with their conclusion. In psychology and cognitive science, this is known as confirmation bias.
The media and fans extended the job that Bolland did on Sedin to the job that they wanted him to do on Thornton. Compare the numbers from the two series - Bolland was +2 vs. Sedin in six games, he was -8 vs. Thornton in four games. Dave Bolland - turned the tide in the Canucks series; Dave Bolland - saved by Antti Niemi in the Sharks series.