The Instigator Podcast 7.29 – Round One Reax and Sabres Coaching Search Updates

With round one of the playoffs in the rear view, we offer up some thoughts on what transpired in the first round, specifically the questionable officiating which seemed to underscore almost every series. We also touch on some of the talking points coming out of Toronto and what’s next for the Sabres coaching search. More names have surfaced as targets for the Sabres and we run down some of the key candidates as we wrap up the show.

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The Instigator Podcast 7.28 – Applying Kekalainen’s Deadline to the 2007 Sabres

In the wake of the first two eliminations in this year’s playoffs, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Jarmo Kekalainen’s aggressive trade deadline strategy may have been applied to the 2007 Sabres. So we endeavored to apply a similar approach to what the Sabres could have done in 2007 while staying within the limits of the salary cap and realistic moves that were available at that time. Along the way we unpack the series sweeps suffered by the Penguins and Lightning, discuss the signings of Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson and touch on the disappointing attendance at this year’s Frozen Four.

You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:

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The Instigator Podcast 5.41 – Analyzing Bylsma’s Future in Buffalo

A big topic of conversation during Tim Murray’s final press conference centered around Dan Bylsma’s effectiveness as Buffalo’s head coach and what appears to be a rapidly closing window on his tenure. Prior to jumping into the outlook on Bylsma, Chris and Tyler offer up their playoff picks, some of which look a bit iffy after just a day and a half of action.

Proposing a change to the NHL series format

There’s no question that the NHL Playoffs are the greatest part of every season. An easy argument could be made that the postseason tournament is the best amongst the four major sports. The series format, structure and seeding are nearly perfect with the change back to the divisional format this season.

While there isn’t a thing I’d change about the playoffs in their current form, I’ve wondered recently about an adjustment to the series structure. The idea shuffles the order in which the games are played to not only add value to home ice advantage, but to give the higher seed an extra opportunity to clinch a series on home ice.

The NHL model, as it stands now follows a 2-2-1-1-1 format with the home team hosting games one, two, five and seven. It is far superior to the NBA’s awful, horrible, no good 2-3-2 order that sees the higher seed forced to the road for three straight games. The system that I’m proposing would see the lower seed host the first two games while giving the higher seed four of the final five games. Continue reading

2ITB second round predictions

For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.

While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.

Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.

Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team

Outcome: Penguins in six Continue reading

Vokoun should be the only choice for Pittsburgh

Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun. That’s the decision that Dan Bylsma has to make before tomorrow’s game one against Ottawa. This is a vitally important choice, but it may not be as difficult as some are indicating.

The Penguins sat through two-straight first round exits in which Marc-Andre Fleury just wasn’t good enough for them (particularly last year). Their first round series with the Islanders was heading off the tracks before Vokoun was inserted and notched a pair of wins that sent the Penguins into the second round. However, Fleury is Pittsburgh’s five million dollar man while Vokoun is the emergency chute signed last summer as insurance for the Pens’ Cup winning netminder.

This year’s flame out marked the third-straight first round series in which Fleury’s save percentage didn’t rise above .900. It also gives Fleury 57 goals against (on 453 shots) over just 17 games these past three years. Vokoun has only played a pair of games behind the Penguins this post season but the solution for Blysma should be simple; play the hot hand.

When it comes to goaltending the key is playing the goalie who gives your team the best opportunity to win. As of right now, Fleury is not that player for the Penguins. Some debate will proceed over what a prolonged benching will do for his psyche but I wouldn’t be concerned with that currently. This is a team that served up a hefty ransom to obtain a trio of deadline pieces that would elevate them to a Cup Finals appearance. If Vokoun gives this cast the best opportunity to win then it shouldn’t matter who he’s replacing. Continue reading