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The Red Wings aren’t better than the Lightning, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win the series

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

The Red Wings lead the Lightning two games to one. They can lose every remaining road game and still win the series. But if the Red Wings advance, “winning” won’t be the right word.

The Lightning are too fast for the Red Wings. They’re just as deep offensively and have a better-skilled defense corps.

They’ve outshot Detroit in every game thus far. The Red Wings took 37.6 percent of the total shots through the first three games, the lowest amount of any team in any playoff series. Detroit’s Corsi For percentage for the series is 43.3 percent, the lowest of any team in the playoffs.

This wouldn’t be winning. This would be stealing.

The playoffs are the enemy of advanced stats. If Tampa Bay played Detroit in a series to infinity minus one, Tampa Bay would win. But the two teams play just seven games. That’s a long time to us, especially when dragged over two weeks. Put that against infinity minus one, though, and it’s the smallest fraction you can imagine.

Pucks can bounce one way for an entire series. Hell, they don’t even need to do that. All it takes is one bounce in one game. Since this sport is played by humans, negative human emotions like doubt, worry, and nervousness and/or positive human emotions like confidence and belief can take that one bounce and turn it into a series-long moment.

It takes only one to start having irrational feelings of confidence to change the series. The Red Wings might have a guy who can do it. His name is Petr Mrazek.

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Playing the Mock Draft, Round 2: The ‘experts’ still don’t have it together

Lions could saved a lot of trouble if they would've just signed D.J. Humphries out of High School and sent him to Double-A. (Photo: Army Recruiting)

Lions could saved a lot of trouble if they would’ve just signed D.J. Humphries out of High School and sent him to Double-A. (Photo: Army Recruiting)

If you ever needed evidence that Mock Drafts are worthless, I have it.

You don’t need to look at last year, when in all of the three months leading up to the draft exactly one expert had the Lions taking Eric Ebron, and he switched his pick two weeks later. All you need is the time period from March 18 to now.

We’re less than two weeks away from the draft. The picture should be clear. Or at least clearer. There should be a handful of candidates that the Lions could take with the No. 23 pick in the draft and the experts should be in relative agreement about who that group is.

Lol.

The experts are as split as they were a month ago. The top vote getter from March 18, Florida State DT Eddie Goldman, when from four votes to none. The top vote getter this round has three. A month ago, 15 experts picked nine different players. This time, 15 experts picked nine different players.

Ten of the 15 experts switched votes. (Those staying the same: CBS Sports’ Rob Rang, USA TODAY’s Nate Davis, Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko, Lance Zierlein and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.)

Mock Drafts are fun, but it becomes clearer by the day: the so-called experts have as much insight into who the Lions are going to take you do. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have little on the random 14-year-old with an internet connection when it comes to predictability.

Here, take a look for yourself:

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Would a first-round playoff loss signify the end of a run for the Red Wings?

(Nicole Yeary)

(Nicole Yeary)

Last year the Red Wings had an excuse. They were injured all year. Success became keeping the playoff streak alive. Everyone knew the Bruins were bigger and better. Fans’ hope for a series win rested solely on reputation: the Red Wings tend to win playoff series. Losing to Boston brought no surprise.

The year before, the Red Wings won a playoff series, then lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Well they choked it away. Up 3-1 in the series, Detroit let Chicago force a Game 7, and then allowed a Brent Seabrook overtime goal to win it. Detroit had a Cup run in them, they just didn’t receive the bounce they needed.

This Red Wings teams rests in-between those two. They aren’t bad enough to leave fans facing the choice between logic and hope, but they aren’t good enough to be considered Cup contenders. The Red Wings can win, but they’ll probably lose. That makes this year is closer to 2012. The No. 5 seed Red Wings lost to the No. 4 Predators in the first round. Mike Babcock sat after Detroit’s 2-1, series-clinching loss in Game 6 and said casually, “To me, five games, that’s not close.” He talked about needed to make a big change in the offseason. People wondered if it was finally the end for the Red Wings as a perennial playoff contender.

The Lightning performed better throughout the year. They didn’t collapse in the second half. They’re better offensively and just as good as Detroit defensively. They have better goaltending. Detroit has no answer for Steven Stamkos. Honestly, this one might not be close.

If it isn’t, the Red Wings foundation could crumble. Mike Babcock could bolt and reappear in Toronto as Ruler of Everything. Jimmy Howard might become damaged beyond repair. Petr Mrazek could go from being the next Jimmy Howard to being, well, the next Jimmy Howard.

The run will finally be over. Babcock’s era will end in disappointment, the Jimmy Howard era will without a Stanley Cup and the questions will turn to how long Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can last. And just to kick fans while their down, it’ll be a Steve Yzerman team that destroyed the Red Wings run.

Then again, the Red Wings could win. Datsyuk and Zetterberg could prove that playoff experience means something, Detroit’s power play could return to it’s unsustainable form, and the Lightning could do the same thing they did last year. The Jimmy Howard era might still be over in Detroit, but the Red Wings run would continue.

One series, a pendulum swing one way or another depending on the result. This is probably an overreaction. I get that. Two counter points: 1.) Isn’t that what sports are for? 2) What if it’s not?

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Breaking down the Red Wings’ eighth segment: Detroit showing signs of improvement at right time

 (Adam Glanzman)

(Adam Glanzman)

Red Wings fans have panicked for the last two and a half months. They had their reasons. Detroit went from fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs to fighting to get into the playoffs, and all those battles came just months after the Red Wings were one of the top three teams in the league.

The playoffs are here now. Detroit is in. But wide-eyed hope morphed into closed-eyed wincing. The Red Wings haven’t been good for three months. In their last 11 games of the season they posted a 4-4-3 record, good for 11 points. That’s the same pace they were on last year when inched into the playoffs and then lost in the first round.

But look past the record and there’s a fllicker of light. The Red Wings might be out of their second-half woes. Here’s a look at the numbers:

2013-14 Avg Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Seg 4 Seg 5 Seg 6 Seg 7 Seg 8
GF 27.1 29 30 32 24 35 27 24 30
GA 27.6 22 27 25 22 26 28 31 30
5-on-5 GF 19.1 19 17 19 11 18 15 11 21
5-on-5 GA 18.4 15 18 16 11 13 19 17 17
PPG 6.1 5 12 10 10 9 8 8 6
OPP PPG 5.9 3 5 6 5 11 6 9 9

(*The splits don’t add up to the total because I didn’t include empty-net goals, short-handed goals, 6-on-5 goals, etc. on the chart.)

Their goal differential isn’t negative and their five-on-five goal differential is positive for the first time in three segments.

Detroit spent the middle part of the year as a good team masking itself as a great team due to an unsustainable rate of power play goals. The power play calmed down. The Red Wings showed themselves as the team they always were. But now, with a positive even strength goal differential, Detroit showed right before the playoffs that they might be a little better than above average.

There’s still hope.

Here were the top five Red Wings in terms of Adjusted GRM this segment:

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How the Detroit Tigers were made: A look at how each player on the roster was acquired

(Photo: Jason Mrachina)

(Photo: Jason Mrachina)

On Monday 25 players found themselves wearing the Old English D, standing shoulder to shoulder on the foul line as the national anthem played at Comerica Park.

They came from Virginia and Venezuela, Tennessee and Cuba.

How did this collection of human beings find themselves together?

Some arrived via trade, others came through free agency. Still others were drafted or signed out of their home countries.

Most roster spots opened relatively recently, but others find themselves on the Tigers roster due to a series of events almost 20 years in the making.

Last year Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh introduced the MLB transaction tree, which tracks a player’s roster spot lineage back through a series of trades and/or compensatory or supplemental draft picks to find the original draft pick or free agent signing that caused it all.

I’ve constructed transaction trees for each player on the Tigers’ 25-man roster (and one player on the disabled list).

Click each picture to get a larger version. Players in red are dead branches on the tree and, if applicable, weren’t included in subsequent trades. Direct links begin with earliest descendant by date.

Starters (Furthest back his roster spot goes): 

David Price (2005)

Matt Joyce -> Edwin Jackson -> Austin Jackson -> David Price

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Justin Verlander (2004)

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Anibal Sanchez (2009)

Jacob Turner -> Anibal Sanchez

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Shane Greene (1997)

Fernando Rodney -> Chance Ruffin -> Doug Fister -> Robbie Ray -> Shane Greene

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Alfredo Simon (2008)

Eugenio Suarez -> Alfredo Simon

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Relievers (Furthest back his roster spot goes): 

Joe Nathan (2012)

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Joakim Soria (2012)

Jake Thompson -> Joakim Soria

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Bruce Rondon (disabled list) (2007 )

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Al Alburquerque (2010)

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Joba Chamberlain (2013)

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Tom Gorzelanny (2015)

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Angel Nesbitt (2009)

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Ian Krol (1997)

Fernando Rodney -> Chance Ruffin -> Doug Fister -> Ian Krol

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It’s opening day: Where you can find the James Mungro Memorial Award winners

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A week and a half ago we found our next James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) winner in Angel Nesbitt. Last week we  examined the end for Chris Bootcheck. 

Now, baseball is upon us and we have three active JMMA winners in different places.

Nesbitt made history. Three days ago he got the called to go into the office. As he describes it, he didn’t think anything of it.

“Hey Nessy, congrats, you made the team.”

Nesbitt is the first ever JMMA winner to make an opening day roster.

Since then he’s doing what we would all do in that situation. Instagramming newspapers with him and Miguel Cabrera, pictures with his major league teammates, and his opening day name plate.

Nesbitt doesn’t pretend not be excited so he can look cool. He is doing what most people would do in that situation: freak out. I MADE THE TEAM DO YOU REALIZE I MADE THE TEAM? I DID IT WOOOO!

I’m just glad he has an Instagram to share it with us. This year’s JMMA went to the right person.

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What the hell happened to Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard?

Howard

Not too long ago Jimmy Howard was an All Star. Through December he had a 0.921 save percentage. His goals against average hovered in the low twos. He was on pace for his best season in two years.

Now, with six games to go in the regular season, Howard watched from the bench as Petr Mrazek stole a point from the Senators on Tuesday and took another step towards solidfying himself — and not Howard — as the Red Wings’ playoff goalie.

What the hell happened?

If you listen to Jimmy Howard the answer is nothing.

From MLive: “Howard said his issues aren’t mental and he hasn’t lost confidence. He also said he’s fine physically and that his time off due to injury is no excuse for his inconsistency.”

He has a point. Howard and Mrazek’s overall numbers on the season are similar.

(Note: All stats courtesy of War on Ice. Here’s a definition of adjusted save percentage.) 

SV% Adj Sv% 5-on-5 Sv% 5-on-5 Adj Sv%
Petr Mrazek 91.46 92.1 92.72 93.29
Jimmy Howard 91.09 91.52 92.1 92.6

There’s less than a percentage difference in every category. Things don’t start to separate until you break it down by month. It all goes south in January, when Howard injures his groin.

Here’s a graph by month of Howard and Mrazek’s adjusted save percentage by month. Mrazek didn’t play in a game for the Red Wings in October.

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Howard rebounded from the injury in February, bringing his adjusted save percentage up to 91.09, before having it drop below the 90 percent threshold again.

But Howard’s 5-on-5 save percentage actually improved from February to March, bringing it withing half a percent of his pre-January numbers.

Note: War-on-Ice didn’t list Howard’s adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage for January. I’m guessing he didn’t play in enough games. His regular save percentage that month was 89.6 percent. 

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Howard hasn’t just been worse in all aspects. If that was the case his 5-on-5 numbers would’ve mirrored his overall save percentage and fallen. No, Howard’s struggle comes in one particular aspect: the penalty kill.

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