NHL preseason: the stuff of legendary performances by players who will soon be waived for cap space, quixotic line combinations involving guys who don’t even show up when you google them, and coverage so comprehensive it borders on claustrophobic. Want all 20 TSN analysts to tweet line combinations at you, and then analyze those combinations, and then do pre- and post- game coverage about something that is by its very definition meaningless? Lucky for you, we have two solid weeks of that!
You’ve also got trolling sportscasters telling fans of all teams that the way these guys are playing today means even the remotest thing about the season. Caveat: I’ve watched about fifteen minutes of preseason hockey total, mostly because I already think the regular season, let alone the preseason, is too long. But I check in. I read about Spezza’s twitchy groin, and how a defence that includes Michael Sdao barely held up against the Icelandic team from D2. I’m human. And I worry.
So, with that set-up, let me ask you: are you concerned at all about this?
Small sample size, weird defense, they played the Islanders in two separate games simultaneously, yadda yadda. I get it. It doesn’t mean anything. But on the surface of things? Holy hell have these two guys looked brutal.
Someone smarter than me should do an analysis of how accurate preseason is as an indicator of how players will perform when the season starts. We can all remember the big exceptions, like Brandon Bochenski lighting it up and then disappearing immediately. But what’s the norm, obscured from the naked eye by its perpetuity? What does the data say? It strikes me as odd to discount on the basis of the exception. It’s like looking at Alexandre Daigle and concluding that first overall picks are worthless.
All I’m really prepared for is conjecture at a glance. Looking at the Time On Ice leaders for goalies in the preseason, you do see a few things that are totally expected.
Cam Ward: plays a ton of minutes, totally stinks. Verifiable starters like Carey Price and Kari Lehtonen putting up league average numbers. Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask being absolutely dominant.
Go down the list and it plays out pretty much as expected. In other words, everyone who you would expect to suck pretty much sucks, and everyone you’d expect to play well is playing well. Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner may be outliers here. We better hope they are.
Because this is a team who allowed a lot of shots against last year, and will now have a second pairing of Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. Without at least league average goaltending, you could see this team struggle out of the gate, and even with the benefit of a full season ahead of them, we know how hard it is to play catch-up in this league.
Having said all of that: play ball already.