Sunday, October 3, 2010

GTOG NHL Season Preview Part I: Over/Under

By GTOG Staff

People love predictions.  Whether it involves sports, politics, or the apocalypse, who doesn't enjoy a little healthy prognosticating?  Here at GTOG, we're no different.  But we think most forecasts of the NHL season tend to be a bit too specific.  We could try to predict exactly how many goals Sidney Crosby will score this season, but we don't know, and, more importantly, you know we don't know.  What we can do, however, is give you the over-under.  Here's how it works.  We provide a number for some statistic during the season (e.g. the number of points Sid will score) and then we go on record as to whether the actual number will be either higher or lower than the predicted number.  As always, these are actual Vegas odds.  Ready, hockey fans?  Let's go on the record.

1.  Sidney Crosby goals and assists (O/U:  45 goals, 65 assists)

Artistry:  Over.  He may not score 50 goals this year, but Crosby will hit both these numbers, and I see his assists skyrocketing.  Look at his progression in terms of points-per-game:

2005 - 1.26
2006 - 1.52
2007 - 1.36
2008 - 1.34
2009 - 1.35
2010 - ?

Surprised?  Remember, Crosby had 84 assists and 120 points as a 19-year-old.  Now he's 23, the same age Mario Lemieux exploded for 199 points back in 1988-89.  It's the perfect storm of youth and experience,  and it means at least 120 points for Crosby.

Finesse:  I'm tempted to go push here.  When you play with Chris "Stone Hands" Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, the top of your dresser is the limit.  I think Crosby is going to be a better player than ever this season, but I don't think it will necessarily translate into more points.  The key to hitting the 120 point mark for any player is second assists on the power play.  With the loss of Gonchar, the success of the Pens power play is too uncertain for me to predict 120 points.  But I'll officially go OVER with 41-70-111pts.

2.  Pierre McGuire use of "Mike Richards" and "leadership" in the same sentence (O/U:  13)

Let's go, boys.
Artistry:  Over.  I can't understand what the odds-makers were thinking with this line.  Why are they estimating such a significant drop from last year's Mike Richards leadership references?  If anything, you'd have to expect that the Flyers' unexpected push to the Finals would have McGuire really loaded for bear, particularly early this season.  I'm going with the Over here, and I don't think it's close.

Finesse:  Over.  I just did a Stick Tap fantasy draft where the only category is how many times a player says "Let's go boys" to his teammates on the bench and, needless to say, Mike Richards was the first pick.  And then the draft was over. 

3.  Alexander Semin 2011 playoff goals (O/U:  3)

Artistry:  Under.  Ah, the enigmatic Mr. Semin.  Check that, an enigma is a mystery, and Mr. Semin is anything but.  He has 8 goals in three playoff seasons (28 games) with the Capitals, including a bagel in seven games last postseason.  It's plain to see he cares not for the rigors of the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup.

Finesse:  Over.  We've seen it a million times - the player who has never had any post season success have a breakout performance (Bonds did it with the Giants, A-Rod recently did it, even Malkin did it when he won the Conn Smythe).  As you'll read in our GTOG Inbox this week, we predict the Caps will again win the Eastern Conference and, sadly, I predict Semin will play a large role in them winning their first round playoff series.  That large role may include breaking 11 panes of glass behind the net by continuously shooting the puck over the goal on wide open chances, but still, a large role. 

Much more O/U, after the jump....

4.  Geno Malkin goals and assists (O/U:  45 goals, 65 assists)

Artistry:  Over.  It's trendy to predict a massive bounce-back year for Malkin, because he's completely healthy and motivated to show last year was a fluke.  Those things are true, but I'm looking at his linemates.  For most of last season, Geno was stuck centering the slug wearing Ruslan Fedotenko's uniform.  Then Alexi Ponikarovsky showed up and created traffic in front of Geno, apparently mistaking him for the net.  Those two are gone, and now Malkin is presented with much better options.  He has an instinctive guy who can skate and give-and-go with him in Mike Comrie, and he'll also eventually get a big man who can do what Ponikarovsky was supposed to do and create some space for him.  That would be Jordan Staal.  In the meantime, it could conceivably be Eric Tangradi.  Alternatively, Geno will see time on Crosby's wing.  In any event, it's a new dawn for Malkin.

Finesse:  Over.  Just like Crosby, this depends on the success of the power play.  Can Geno get his shot from the point through like Gonchar could?  Will the Pens create enough PP movement to allow for some easy goals or will every power play goal feel like a struggle?  Geno is simply too good of a player to not break the 100 point mark, and he is explosive enough to sprinkle in some huge 5-6 point nights that are needed to hit 110 points. 

5.  Geno Malkin penalty minutes (O/U:  100)

Artistry:  Over.  Last season, serving 2 minute minors was like taking a shower in the morning for Malkin.  It was expected, and it usually happened at the worst possible time in the game.  He certainly can't be less disciplined this year, so I see fewer minors.  But he may be inclined to beat up Rick Nash a couple more times.

Finesse:  Under.  Geno was lazy and immature at times last year with his ridiculous penalties.  I think he was disappointed in his own performance last year and he'll play a more disciplined game this season.  Just ask Mike Richards how disciplined Geno can be.

6.  Joe Beninati bizarre voiceover intros on Versus (O/U:  12)

Artistry:  Over.  I like Joe Beninati.  He seems like a genuinely nice fellow.  Sometimes he's a guest on Stan and Guy.  He's got tremendous enthusiasm for the game, and somebody has to be the voice of the Washington Capitals.  But Beninati does some strange intros on Versus.  Take this one from a game last season between the Pens and Sabres.  It's a verbatim transcript:

[Cue dramatic Versus intro music]
"Hockey's bests react in split seconds, and in the blink of an eye the game can be decided!  In Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin travels through time, with sublime skills designed to beat the clock.  Few in a sport of time management are better than Sidney Crosby, whose talents should excel for a lifetime.  And then some.  Sabres netminder Ryan Miller is a master of savings time, placing himself in the line of fire, to stop those for whom time is money.  On Versus!"

That has to be one of the most prolonged and strained metaphors ever produced on an NHL broadcast.  And then some.

Finesse:  Over.  "Over the highest peaks of the vastest mountains of the galaxy, a Jupiter-like seismic shift in the balance of bad announcing!!  Only 3 minutes and 43 seconds until the Dodge Intermission Report!"

7.  Jordan Staal goals and assists (O/U:  15 goals, 30 assists)

Artistry:  Under.  Oooh, this is a toughie.  Just when we thought Staal would be promoted to full-time second line duty for the first time since his rookie year, he's grounded by the foot infection.  Five medical procedures over the summer.  Talk of a "withered" leg.  Completely out of shape.  I don't have a good feeling about this.

Finesse:  Under.  We've been noting for a long time that the relative silence about Staal's condition is a bad thing.  There really has been no good news since he sustained this injury and that has finally led to some news trickling out that this is really a lot more serious than the Pens had hoped.  Until I see him on the ice, I am hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.

8.  Ted Leonsis regular season proclamations that the Capitals "have arrived," are "a force to contend with on a generational level," or "are a dynasty"  (O/U:  every day)

Artistry:  Over.  I think Vegas has the perfect read on this one.  People would be naturally inclined to bet the over, except now that Leonsis also has a controlling interest in the NBA Wizards, his focus is fairly evenly split between saying moronic things about his hockey team and saying equally stupid things about his basketball team.  But this man didn't get to be so successful without knowing how to multitask.  He's just going to have to be more efficient.

Finesse:  Over.  You know the saying, "don't count your chickens before they hatch?"  Leonsis not only counts his chickens, he deep fries them in butter, slathers them with barbeque sauce, gives them high school diplomas, and then eats them before they hatch. 

9.  Ilya Kovalchuk goals (O/U:  50)

Artistry:  Under.  Kovalchuk had 41 goals combined last season for the Thrashers and Devils.  Now he gets a full season in New Jersey, a $100 million dollar contract, and, for now at least, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac as linemates.  Everything is in place for the 27-year-old sniper to have a huge year and top the 52 goals he scored in 2005-2006.  Conditions are perfect.  It's business time.

Or is this the onset of complacency?  Ilya, GTOG does not believe in you.

Finesse:  Under.  People are touting the Devils new "up-tempo" system, but we've heard this before.  The Zajac-Parise-Kovalchuk line may be one of the best in the league, if not the best, but 50 goals is a LOT of goals.  I see Kovalchuk flirting with the 50 goal mark, but the Devils have just enough of a tendency to slip into scoring droughts that he'll come up just short.

10.  Coaches fired during the regular season (O/U:  2)

Artistry:  Under.  Three head coaches were fired during the middle of last season.  Seven guys were fired in 2008-2009.  I don't know what Vegas was thinking here.  This is the NHL.  But looking at the current roster of coaches, I can't pick two that I feel really comfortable about getting that phone call during mid-season.  I'm surprising myself and picking the Under.

Finesse:  Over.  It's inevitable.  Some teams are going to get off to horrible starts and the clamoring will begin.  Hell, it happened with the Pens and Michel Therrien (not Therrien's fault, by the way) when no one would have predicted that at the beginning of the year. 

11.  Taylor Hall goals (O/U:  20)

Artistry:  Over.  Real deal, and he'll see plenty of ice.

Finesse:  Over, I guess.  Who really knows.

12.  Sidney Crosby use of swear words during 4-hour HBO documentary (O/U:  2)

Artistry:  No bet.  I think we need to break this down a little further.  Are we talking during games or behind the scenes?  If they mike the kid during games and air every profane utterance during the heat of battle, they'll probably get about 25 per period.  All you need to do is watch a game - if you can read lips, you know it's true.  But off the ice when Crosby is focused on the cameras and not butt-ending Maxim Lapierre?  He won't swear one time.  I'm protesting this over-under bet.  I find it unfair.

Finesse:  Over, and some idiot columnists will give him crap for it.  With some people, Crosby simply can't win.  To them, he's too over-hyped but he's also not helping the league by refusing to go on Letterman.  Which is it, people?  If he doesn't swear then people will say he's boring, too image-conscious, etc.  If he curses like Kevin Stevens and Bryan Trottier, then he, as the standard bearer, is giving the league a bad image.  I think his swearing will be drowned out anyway by the sounds of Leonsis and Boudreau crying.

13.  Chris Kunitz goals (O/U:  24)

Artistry:  Over.  This is the bet on which other bets - like Crosby's assist total - depends.  Luckily, the threat that is Pascal Dupuis will draw the defense away from Kunitz.

Finesse:  Under.  Stone Hands doesn't have the pedigree and even though he's with Crosby, he's unlikely to see time on the #1 PP.  Without significant PP time, he stops at 21. 

14.  Paul Steigerwald failed Zybnek Michalek nickname attempts (O/U:  2)

Artistry:  Over.  He's already trying out "Z-man," which is probably what Michalek's third grade gym teacher called him.  I foresee him shifting over to ZZ-Blocks early in the season, then panicking at the lack of enthusiasm for this nickname and settling on Z-Monster.  Meanwhile, Mike Lange will put an end to Steigy's desperate attempts, and smoothly dub the shut-down Czech defenseman "Z-Money."  Until Mr. Lange weighs in, I'm sticking with Z-Mickle.

Finesse: Over.  I like Z-Spot.

15.  Postgame discussions at GTOG headquarters wherein the words "Pascal Dupuis was our best forward tonight" are spoken (O/U:  7)

Number One Winger.  Really.
Artistry:  Under.  This is the first bet where I'm letting my emotions get the best of me.  Damn.  The first rule of both fantasy football and over/under is "Don't let your emotions get the best of you."  And here I am, in total denial.

Finesse:  Over.  He brings it every night.  Unfortunately, it is usually a slapshot high and wide, but he does bring it with him.

16.  Mike Modano goals and assists (OU:  20 goals, 20 assists)

Artistry:  Under.  He had 14 goals and 16 assists last year as a 39-year-old.  What are the Red Wings expecting here?  I'm nearly Modano's age, and I just hurt my back typing this sentence.  Besides, it's so cold in the D.

Finesse:  Is this line serious?  Can I take this line divided by two?  Or four?  10 goals, max.

17.  Derek Boogaard salary in dollars per minute played (O/U: $3,000)

Artistry:  Over.  We're talking about 7 minutes a game, roughly?  Too much.  I think he'll spend most of his time either in the box or on the bench.  Great signing, Glen.

Finesse: Over.  This may be the best line of this whole piece.  If he get's 7 minutes a game, the Rangers are worse than we thought.  And we think this is a tough year ahead for them anyway.

18.  Mike Comrie goals and assists (O/U:  20 goals, 20 assists)

Artistry:  Over.  There is no reason that Comrie won't see significant time on the power play and have a regular place on the top two lines, at least until March.  At that point, Shero may go looking for an upgrade.  Until that happens and the games tighten up in the spring, this guy is going to enjoy life riding shotgun with Geno.  Remember how bad Fedotenko was last year?  He was historically terrible.  Very limited time on the PP, but he still cashed in 11 goals playing with Malkin.

Finesse: Under on goals, over on assists.  We've been through too many "scoring wingers for Sid and/or Geno" for me to bite on this.  When and if he scores 20, I'll be the happiest guy in the room.  But not until then.

19.  Scott Burnside and Pierre Lebrun television appearances in random living rooms (O/U:  5)

Artistry:  Under.  I'm going on faith here that someone will forward this to ESPN producers and they'll realize how embarrassing this is.  Meanwhile they have eight guys in suits running around on a simulated football field that probably cost $3 million, as Ron Jaworski breaks down the Cleveland Browns' pass protection schemes.  That's equally embarrassing, in its own way.

Finesse: Over.  ESPN isn't getting these guys a studio any time soon and Scott Burnside has no plans to abandon the couch that his mom was conceived on.

20.  Pavel Datsyuk takeaways (O/U:  100)

Artistry:  Over.  Fun fact:  In 2007-2008, Datsyuk led the league with 144 takeaways, 58 more than second-place finisher Modano.  Stud.

Finesse:  I refuse to answer.  The only takeaway involving Datsyuk that I care about comes in the last minute of this video:

21.  Henrik Sedin goals and assists (O/U:  30 goals, 80 assists)

Artistry:  Under.  Don't get me started on what a travesty it is that Sedin stole the Hart Trophy last year.    I have great respect for him as a player - he is a joy to watch - but if you think Sidney Crosby scoring 51 goals alongside Kunitz and Dupuis and willing the Penguins through a season where Malkin and Fleury never really showed didn't prove more valuable to his team than Sedin, I don't know what to tell you.  Besides, until 2009-10, the 30-year-old Swede never scored more than 82 points in a season.  Last year was an anomaly.

Finesse: Under by far.  Artistry said it well.  This guy had a career year last year that was mainly precipitated by his teammates coming through and finishing his passes.  Lightning won't strike twice.  95 points, tops.

22.  Luca Caputi goals (O/U:  15)

Artistry:  Under.  The Alexei Ponikarovsky trade was surely one of the worst moves of the Ray Shero era in Pittsburgh, but let's not get carried away.  My take on Caputi is the same as it's always been:  he's most likely a third line guy with very limited second line upside.  Currently, he's still battling for a roster spot in Toronto.  He wouldn't have made the Penguins' team this year, and he may never have made it.

Finesse: Over under on how many over/unders Artistry created: Infinity.

23.  Hawks playoff wins  (O/U:  11)

Artistry:  Push.  Chicago is still a Cup-worthy team, even with myriad off-season losses they just endured.  I think we'll see a rejuvenated Marty Turco, whose puck-handling talents will mesh well with the talented and mobile Hawks' defense.  I also see Patrick Kane taking his game to another level this season.  But have you looked at the potential playoff teams in the West?  There is an incredible depth of quality this season, and some hungry young team, be it the Canucks, Kings, or Blues, is going to knock off the champs in a 7-game conference finals thriller.

Finesse:  Under.  Not a believer in Marty Turco and too many losses.  That will really change the energy of their team and I see them having a similar year as the Pens did last year - good based on muscle memory, but ultimately with something missing from the Cup year.

24.  Caps playoff wins  (O/U:  11)

Artistry:  Under.  This is the year the NHL gets the conference final matchup it's been looking for.  The Pens will run their playoff record against Washington to 8-1.  Wake me up when the "rivalry" begins.

Finesse: Under.  Please, please, please not over.

25.  Pens playoff wins  (O/U:  16)

Artistry:  Push.

Finesse:  Push.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II of the GTOG NHL Season Preview:  NHL In-Box.


  1. Artistry,

    It's almost scary that you would reference Mario Lemieux's monster year, because I have also had that same thought in regards to Crosby turing 23 this past summer. In doing so, I also looked for trends in other elite players and happened to find that Steve Yzerman was 23 when he had his monster 155 point year.

    However, before the analyticals such as myself wait with gleeful anticipation for Crosby to unleash the fury to which we all hope his 6th season will bring, let us acknowledge a few things. 1.) Career years at the same age by two of the best players to EVER play in the NHL, does not present a trend. 2.) One could argue that each of them actually had their breakout year at age 22 when both played basically 63 games (Yzerman played 64). 3.)Lemieux was averaging close to 30 minutes a game back then because defensive responsibilities were almost non existant for star offensive players in the mid eighties.

    In addition I also agree that Kunitz and Dupuis are saaaaaad wingers to help Sid reach the lofty numbers we all believe he has the potential to attain.

    However with ALL of that being said, if Malkin does shift to wing and sees regular shifts on Crosby's line, (especially now with Stall on the shelf for the first month) maybe our two big guns catch fire and start making opposing goalies look like turnstiles at Steeler home games.

    "If" that does happen I could see Sid throwing up 135 or 140 points. And, if he did that in today's ultra competitive, "lets just have our defensmen play catch with the other team's defensemen" NHL. Well...that my friends....that would be something for the ages.


  2. I would take over without hesitation on that line for Sid. With a better defense overall and a better second line to draw attention of the opponents defense, I don't see how he can't hit that mark. Let's not forget, this is the guy who decided he wanted to be a better goal scorer and won the Rocket the next season.

    Kovalchuck: under. Sure, he can score goals, but last year only Ovechkin, Crosby and Stamkos hit 50. Those guys he is not.

    I'll go over on Malkin's point total if they give him the point on the PP. He's would scare the sh!t out of opposing defenses up there. I can see him creating a lot of movement and if not goals, racking up the assists.