The first sign of a good team.
In a stereotypical sense, the future winner of a big and big tournament – for example, let’s take the Stanley Cup, goes in vain in the background to the space World Cup – looks like this: in the regular season he easily takes first place, in the first round with a score 4-1 or 4-0 the team goes through the wild, in the second effortlessly (4-1 or 4-2) puts up with the main competitor in the category, at the conference. finals meets the most serious resistance and wins 4-3 there, and the final takes it somehow out of inertia.
In a stereotypical view, opponents are stacked in stacks by one type of future winner, and during his games, Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” is played continuously.
In real life, not only is everything wrong, but it is generally not clear how. The Kings once won the Stanley Cup, as soon as they managed to jump to last place. In the next league series, they had to recover from 0-3 in a row against San Jose. Washington started its victory in 2018 with two defeats by Columbus. Two defeats by Columbus – how is that enough for a champion? This is how the future winner should start – from 0-2 against a strong middle farmer?
Most of the time – and the recent playoff draws that Tampa took with power are rather an exception in this regard – the course of the league is made up of paradoxes, which are cleverly combined into a coherent plot. And this plot involves development. It did not work at first, I went to the brink of relegation, but I found new strength in myself and added distance.
I attribute this phenomenon to two factors.
First: if you put it all at the beginning of the tournament, what will surprise you at the finish?
Second: a controversial start, slipping on the cliff from the start of the playoffs – this is supposed to be a much more satisfying experience to win in the second, third and all subsequent rounds. Somehow I saved myself in the first round – I am much better prepared for such a situation in the next ones.
Therefore, during any major tournament, I do not pay attention to those who point out the experts, but to those who have a controversial start. Those who do not seem to justify the progress, stop and then overcome this hole themselves – and show growth in the next stage.
In the Stanley Cup 2022 (I watch it as closely as possible not only on this blog, but also on Telegram), there are many such teams and they all have a chance to win, but, in my opinion, the Rangers are going stronger than others. .
Let’s remember the first round: not only were they on the verge of losing the series from Pittsburgh with a score of 1-3. They did not show any stability. Igor Shesterkin was consistent, but lost a couple of blocks. The whole first round I wrote: what happens in their defense? See how many moments the penguins create!
Do you remember with what score in the expected goals Pittsburgh, which many called the old, won the series against the Rangers? 33 to 22 – yes, a third difference. If you look at the thermal map of that series as a weather forecast, then it will rain and thunderstorms in New York.
I’m not saying that the Rangers went wrong. I mean, in the first round they looked wet, unstable, a bit even sloppy. It was as if the pure talents of the players – including Panarin and Shesterkin – were being pulled forward.
But now, in the second round, we see a completely different team. We see a team that is purely defensive against Carolina. In the last two games of the series, he conceded only two goals, one of which is such a Shesterkin butterfly, which was not there and probably will not be again. The Rangers have built a solid structure in their belt since the beginning of the series and after a few setbacks, everything worked fine – and they got two wins.
In the last two matches, the liaisons worked in their majority – and the rest of their attack follows. And the Rangers look like a team ready to go to the finals – not through Sesterkin’s miraculous saves, and even less from his miraculous passes, but from the job, the system and the overall quality of hockey. After four games, the Rangers, of course, lose xG 11.5 – 14, but with one of the best goalkeepers in the league, that is not such a big difference.
“From 1-3 in the first round to the Conference finals” is a story that does not seem very true, but the Stanley Cup just loves it.
Photo: REUTERS / Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports, Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports