Watching this series was a much better experience compared to the Sharks - Avs series. The play was mostly even, except for game four, and both of these teams looked like actual playoff teams. The hours spent recording chances also revealed some insight into how the teams in charge of the television coverage report scoring chances. In game four, the Detroit crew called a 40 foot unscreened wrist shot from Johan Franzen "another scoring chance." In game five, Patrick Marleau entered the zone on the left wing and threw a 49 foot wrister at the net, just inside the blue line. The San Jose announcers called it a scoring chance. Knowing the difference between what a scoring chance is for the home team's television crew and what a scoring chance is for Dennis King, Scott Reynolds, Olivier, et al, makes me hopeful that the scoring chance project is worthwhile.
For those of you who are new to the concept of tracking scoring chances, a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. Vic Ferrari makes this all possible with his tools to evaluate Corsi, head-to-head ice time and scoring chances.
*For a primer on the other stats mentioned here, please visit the always-lively Behind The Net Hockey.
The series was mostly even with San Jose having the edge at even strength and on the power play
San Jose's top two lines played to a near draw with Detroit's top two lines. Joe Thornton was even, Marleau was +4, Dany Heatley was +1, Devin Setoguchi was +3, Ryane Clowe +3 and Joe Pavelski even. By the regular season ratios, the top two lines were worth about 1 goal over their Detroit counterparts. In nearly all of my recaps, I mentioned Logan Couture as a guy that was winning his battle. He and Manny Malhotra were the most effective Sharks through the series, though they never had to play difficult minutes in this series. 55% of Couture's time was spent against Darren Helm's line, and less than 20% of his time was against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combined. He made the most of it by beating the bottom half of Detroit's roster, which is about all you can ask of a kid in his first playoff run.
The story here isn't that the Wings are aging, though as a team, they are. The story is that their depth players got beat up by the Sharks depth players. The outcome would have been the same had they played the Hawks. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are still the best in the league, and they proved it with their performance in the first two series. Helm, Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Kris Draper, Jason Williams, Mattias Ritola, and Patrick Eaves just aren't the same level of players that Detroit was able to send in waves in the past. Even Dan Cleary looked lost in this series. Getting Jiri Hudler back next year is going to go a long way in restoring some depth to the roster but restoring the rest of the roster is going to have to come from free agency.
Nicklas Lidstrom's minutes were amazing during this series. 89% of his minutes at even strength game against Thornton or Pavelski. He spent about eight minutes combined against the Sharks bottom two lines. He also played over 60% of the Wings short-handed minutes and over 80% of their three-on-five minutes. He did this all at age forty.