North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Good Point: Love for MVP? Plus NHL Playoff Picks!

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My latest for The Good Point looks at why Kevin Love is getting attention in the NBA’s Most Valuable Player race, despite being outplayed in almost every way by LeBron James. To wit:

By almost any standard basketball metric, LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now. He has the highest Player Efficiency Rating at 30.7 and 12.2 Win Shares; best in the league. On his own team, he’s putting up better numbers than the other 60 percent of the big three, especially in shooting stats like True Shooting or Effective Field Goal percentages.
In other words, James is putting up better numbers than anyone in the league, is the best player on his team, itself one of the NBA’s best. This guy should be a shoo-in for MVP, right?
So why is Kevin Love getting to much attention right now?

 Click here to read the whole thing!

And while you’re here, click here to read my Good Point review of Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding!

Finally, my annual NHL Playoff picks follow the jump.

Eastern Conference


New York Rangers over Ottawa Senators in five
Ottawa’s success this year is good story and they’re one of the better scoring teams in the NHL (their 249 goals for is tied for fourth-best in the league) but they’re nowhere near as good as the Rangers. Ottawa benefited from playing in a poor division, with Buffalo and Toronto underwhelming at points this season and Montreal for the whole year. By the same token, the Rangers dominated in the Eastern Conference’s best division, allowed the fewest goals and – most important to me – are coached by John Tortorella, who I really want to see swear at reporters until at least June.

Boston Bruins over Washington Capitals in six
How great would it be if Barack Obama showed up for one of these games and asked to visit the Bruins dressing room? Would Tim Thomas act like there’s nobody there, saying “what’s that coach, you say the President is here? But I don’t see John McCain!” Alas, the Bruins are a team that’s looking just as good as they did last spring. I think they’ll make easy work of the underwhelming Capitals.

New Jersey Devils over Florida Panthers in four
Another one where I’m picking the favorite. Despite a higher seed, the Panthers are outclassed by the Devils: New Jersey has a higher goal differential (+19 to -24), Simple Rating (0.23 to -0.33) and a deeper team. I don’t think this is like 2010, either, when the Devils fell apart against Philly: Florida is a weak team and maybe the worst team to win a division in years. The Devils could make quick work of this series.

Pittsburgh Penguins over Philadelphia Flyers in six
The hot series of the entire first round. And with good reason: their last three games have been decided by just five goals. It’s worth noting that the Pens lost two of those three, too. But I’m a believer in a teams that can score, which nobody in the league does like Pittsburgh, and they’re on a roll coming into the postseason, having won four of their last five. Is falling back on cliches like momentum a lazy sportswriter trope? Probably. But this should be a good series and I think it’s the East’s best bet for a seventh game and when it comes down to it, I’m taking the team that’s not missing a star player with a concussion-related injury.

Western Conference
Vancouver Canucks over LA Kings in four
Sure, Vancouver’s missing a Sedin. I don’t think that’ll matter too much: not only are the Canucks the highest-ranked team in the NHL by points (111, just edging out St. Louis and New York) but their SRS is 0.57, best in the west. And also Simmons is now a Kings fan or something? What a joke. Maybe we’ll get a Nardwaur interview out of it.

St. Louis Blues over San Jose Sharks in five
I don’t follow the NHL nearly as much as I used to, so I’m thinking these are two of the more interesting stories of the year: St. Louis seemed to me like a team that came out of nowhere to dominate and held the conference lead for a while and as recently as February were in trouble, having dropped nine of 14 games. Hell, in mid-March they were 33-25-9 and looked like they might miss the playoffs. Given how the Blues have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (just 165) and a solid tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot, I think they’ll shut down San Jose’s scoring centers.

Phoenix Coyotes over Chicago Blackhawks in six
Speaking of goalies, I think that Mike Smith’s time in Phoenix has been stellar: his .930 Save Percentage is third-highest and his 16.4 Point Shares lead the NHL, not just goalies. I have questions about Phoenix’s age (their leading scorer is 39 years old and played in all 82 games, for example) and how they’ll match up against a young and talented Blackhawks squad, but I’m willing to ride Smith for the first round, at least.

Detroit Red Wings over Nashville Predators in seven
I think the Wings, despite being a fifth seed, are one of the league’s best teams. They can score (sixth most in the league) and keep the other team from scoring (sixth-fewest goals against). They’re deep: five players with at least 50 points. They have the fourth-best SRS in the NHL, too. And Jimmy Howard’s .920 Save Percentage, 2.12 GAA and 10.3 Point Shares aren’t too bad, either. And while Nashville’s no slouch either – they’re not far behind in Goals For, Against or SRS – I’m having a hard time seeing them get past Detroit in a close series: I don’t like betting against Detroit unless there’s a really good reason, which I just don’t see here. This isn’t getting quite the same ink as Pittsburgh/Philadelphia, but don’t sleep on this series, it could be the best of the first round.

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Written by M.

April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

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