Leadership is an important trait for a team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s no surprise why teams looking to get over the hump are always scouring for that vet or two, that can put them over the top. Whether a clutch playoff scorer, a gritty checking forward with intangibles or a heady defencemen, there’s always room on a Cup contender.
So with one round in the books, what have the captain’s of the respective playoff team’s brought to the table thus far? What has the correlation been between captain production and results on the scoreboard? Let’s take a look.
Leading off, although they were the first team to exit the round of 16, out of respect, Nicklas Lidstrom defenceman of the Detroit Red Wings. In five games, Lidstrom was pointless with an even +/- rating. Lidstrom totaled 14 shots and led Detroit in average ice time per game, at 23:43. Additionally, Lidstrom was the lone Wings defenceman to have an even or above +/- rating.
Conversely on the blue line of the Nashville Predators, is captain Shea Weber. When he wasn’t taking shots at the back of Henrik Zetterberg’s head, Weber was helping the Preds to a decisive series victory. In five games, Weber netted two goals, including one on the power-play, posted a +1 rating and registered team highs in shots (18) and ice time per game, at 27:44.
While the Chicago Blackhawks ended up with a hard landing, captain Jonathan Toews certainly got them off on the right foot. Across six games, Toews was tied for the club lead with two markers. With an additional two helpers, Toews was also tied for the club lead with four points. Plus, Toews also paced Chicago with a +4 rating. The Blackhawks center also netted an overtime winner, registered 19 shots and lead all Chicago forwards in average ice time, with 22:17 per contest. Toews also won 65 percent of his draws.
I know we’re not supposed to root as writers, but one has to be at least a little happy for Shane Doan. For the first time, Doan and his Phoenix Coyotes advanced past round one. Over six games, Doan recorded a goal and an assist and posted a +1 rating. Doan also registered for penalty minutes and tied for the team lead in shots with 17. Additionally, the Coyotes forward also won 75 percent of his face offs. Once again another captain leading his team in minutes at his position, as Doan paced all Phoenix forwards with 22:38 per game.
One guy almost dealt at the deadline, dealt countless blows to the Vancouver Canucks. Los Angeles Kings captain and forward Dustin Brown, was on full display early and often for the Kings. Over five games, Brown notched a club leading four tallies. Only Jarret Stoll scored more than one goal against Vancouver. Brown also led the Kings in points (5), plus/minus (+4) and short-handed goals (2). Plus Brown also posted a game winning goal and a club high 25 shots. Brown was only 23 seconds behind Mike Richards for the club lead in minutes among forwards.
On the other end, the Canucks certainly wish they’d gotten more production from the Sedin twins, but they certainly got some solid production out of captain Henrik. In five games, Henrik Sedin was tied for the team lead in goals (2) and assists (3) and topped the team in points with five. Both of those goals by Sedin were registered on the power-play, which isn’t bad when one considers how anemic the Canucks were with the extra attacker all series. Sedin also had 13 shots for Vancouver.
A guy whose numbers didn’t jump off the page, even for a winning squad, let alone a losing one, was David Backes. It’s actually quite hard to believe some of these numbers, in a series dominated by the St. Louis Blues. Backes totaled one goal and a team low -3 rating. Backes had more penalty minutes than shots (6-5) but did win 57.6 of his draws. On the plus side for Blues fans, imagine what they’re going to do when Backes picks it up.
Finally of the Western captain’s, it’s Joe Thornton of St. Thomas, Ontario and the San Jose Sharks. In five games against the Blues, Thornton tied for the lead in goals (2) and helpers (3) and paced the club overall in points with five. Only Martin Havlat notched more than a single goal against St. Louis. Thronton was tied for the team lead with a +2 rating, registered 15 shots and won 61.1 percent of face offs. Additionally, Thronton led all San Jose forward in average ice time, with 21:53.
Over in the Eastern Conference, Claude Giroux had a good month in one series for the Philadelphia Flyers. Not surprising but no less impressive, Giroux in six contests against the Pittsburgh Penguins, posted a team leading six goals, eight assists, 14 points and a rating of +6. Giroux also contributed on special teams, leading the Flyers in power-play goals with two and adding a shorty for good measure. Plus Giroux also topped Philly in shots (28) and ice time among forwards 21:39. Oh by the way, Giroux even tallied a hat-trick and got in a scrap to boot.
Ah the age-old question, does winning breed chemistry or vice versa? The Sidney Crosby “chemistry experiment” did not end well for the Pens, who were streaking into post-season play. As for Crosby’s numbers, he was tied for second in goals with three and tied for the team lead in assists with five. Those totals tied Crosby for second on Pittsburgh with eight points in six games. However, Crosby was a -5 rating. Given the distribution of shots, perhaps Crosby and his 13 shots could’ve shot a little more. Additionally, Crosby won 54.8 of his draws.
Our final defensive captain did all he could to keep Alex Ovechkin in check and did a fine job of matching up and casting a shadow for his efforts. However, Zedno Chara and his Boston Bruins will not be winning the Cup this year, after a seven game grinder against the Washington Capitals. Chara made the most of his one goal, which turned out to be a game winner. Chara also recorded two helpers and logged a -1 rating. Additionally, Chara tied for the club lea in penalty minutes with eight. Chara’s 21 shots were most among B’s d-men and second on the squad. Plus Chara logged the big boy minutes with 27:21 in ice time per game, to lead the way.
Oh sure Ovechkin and the Caps had maybe less pressure this post-season, but their first round bout was no less challenging. In all, A.O. topped Washington with five points and three helpers, while tying for second with two goals. Ovechkin was an even rating and an overwhelming leader in shots with 28. It’s actually hard to believe he got off that many, given his average ice time of 19:39 or a product of one Mr. Chara.
Another captain who may be on his way out but went out fighting hard, Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators. After missing three games from being caught up high with an elbow, Alfredsson helped the Sens push the New York Rangers to the limit. Alfredsson was still tied for second on Ottawa with two goals, one of the power-play variety. However, Alfredsson did only manage a -3 rating. Additionally, Alfredsson registered 15 shots. Makes one wonder if the young Sens would’ve had him for the entire series.
The highest remaining seed Rangers are led by captain Ryan Callahan. Part of a fairly evenly distributed attack, Callahan was tied for second on the Blueshirts with four points, recording two markers and two helpers. Callahan was also a +2 and garnered a goal on the power-play. Also, Callahan put up 17 shots, led all New York forwards in ice time with 23:20 per contest and was at 50 percent on face offs. Oh and he’ll block a few shots from time to time, although that’s practically a perquisite for a Ranger.
No the Florida Panthers didn’t have an official captain, but they did add a lot of seasoned vets to help push their first round series to the limit. Think guys like Mr. Panther, Stephen Weiss, Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski. In seven games, Weiss was tied for the club lead with three goals and second in points with five. Weiss and really the rest of the Panthers, came up big against the team with the best penalty kill during the regular season, in the New Jersey Devils. All of Weiss’ tallies were in fact with the odd-man advantage. Florida recorded nine power-play markers across seven contests. One guy may not have carried them but I wouldn’t say the Panthers lost due to a vacancy at the captaincy.
Finally, the last team to advance, the Devils. Captain Zach Parise, had a strong start to the seven game series against Florida but a somewhat quiet finish. Parise had as many goals in the series (2) as Albany Devils captain Stephen Gionta. Parise did record two assists as well and had an even +/- rating. To his credit, Parise did notch a winner with one of those goals and did manage to lead the club in shots with 32. Next round, the player who registered a shot in every single regular season contest, will have to start putting more of them in the back of the net.
In total, aside from the St. Louis-San Jose/Phoenix-Chicago series’, most of the number bare out that the team whose captain came up big, came up a winner in the first round of the playoffs.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.