Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Buy Sam a Drink: Stanley Cup Comparison

90-91 vs 91-92

Thanks to Steve over at PuckUpdate and the guys at ThePensBlog for linking to the site. If you're a hockey fan, make sure to check out their stuff and don't forget to check back here for the next installment of "Buy Sam a Drink" - it's another hockey related one that should ruffle some feathers. Look for it early Friday.

Welcome to the first installment of Doubt About It's new series,
"Buy Sam a Drink", named after the famous radio call of Penguins
announcer Mike Lange. Each segment will compare, well, anything we
feel like comparing to each other, with the winner of each breakdown
owing our writer Sam a metaphorical drink under the "winners buy"
clause of the Man Law. Without further ado...


The Answer is after the jump...

My first reaction to this question is to say that the 119 point
regular season juggernaut that was the 1992-1993 Pens outdid any
accomplishments by either of the aformentioned squads. Except, oh,
you know, winning the damn Cup. So before I become queasy at the
thought of Kevin Stevens' nose hitting the ice against the Isles in
Game 7, lets take a brief, face-value statistical look at the two Cup
winning squads in the regular season...

As you can see, the regular season stats are strikingly similar
(although strangely enough, the 92 team had almost 300 more penalty
minutes, atleast in part due to the fact that Ulf Samuelson played a
full season in 92, collecting a Kjell Samuelsson-sized 206 penalty
minutes that year). With the regular season statistics being so
similar, I decided that it would be best to try and figure out which
team had a more thoroughly dominating run through the NHL playoffs.....

The trade of Mark Recchi and Paul Coffey for Rick Tocchet, Kjell
Samuelsson and Ken Wregget certainly accounts for the biggest
difference between the 91 and 92 squad. The trade was obviously one
intended to bolster the Penguins defensive attitude and overall sense
of toughness, but data recovery on stats seem to indicate that in addition to
strengthening the defensive presence, the loss of two skilled,
offensive-minded players put more pressure on the Penguins star
forwards. For instance, in the playoffs in '92, Francis and Jagr had
27 and 24 points respectively in 21 games, both large increases from
the '91 run. Tocchet had 19 points in 14 games, Stevens had 28 in 21,
and Mario had an eye-bulging 34 in 15, a 2.26 point per game average
that unbelievably was able to surpass his 1.91 ratio from the year
before. Thus, offensively speaking, I think it is safe to say that
more players on the '92 squad were clicking with the system and coming
into their own as superstars.

While Mario miraculously outdid his own accomplihsments at one end,
Tom Barasso did the same at the other end. Yes, the media hated him,
and yes he tried to run many a backup goalie out of town, but Tom
Barasso's stats are STAGGERING from those Cup runs. This might sound
sacreligious, but when I was looking back at some Barasso stats, I was
more in awe of his statistics than Mario's (disclaimer: this is
largely because I forgot how good Barasso was, whereas we are
constantly reminded of how good Mario was). He's second all time in
wins by a U.S. goalie and he is the all-time leader for assists and
points by a goalie. The two Cup-runs were perhaps his finest work,
averaging around a 2.8 and 3.0 goals a game for each playoff run and
seemingly ALWAYS coming up huge in big games. Excluding the game 4
clincher against the Blackhawks in '92 (where the Pens won 6-5 in a
game that wasnt that close), take a look at how many goals the Pens
gave up in deciding games of every series in the '91 and '92 playoff

0, 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 1.

Again....0, 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 1......in deciding games.....of the NHL playoffs.

That, cats and kittens, is as impressive a stat as you will ever
see from a playoff hockey goalie, let alone a stat that spans TWO

So which playoff run saw a better goaltending performance? Since
the Barasso stats are pratically a draw, I am tempted to pick '91
simply because Frank Pietrangelo, he of "The Save", fared better as a
backup than Ken Wregget. But down the stretch in '92, Barasso was
just on another level: he gave up 7 goals in a 4 game sweep of the
Bruins in the Conference Finals and his Game 2 and 3
performances in the Finals against the Hawks (one goal in game 2 and a
shutout in game 3) were simply otherworldly goaltending performances.

Already leaning towards '92 because of the slight advantages in
offensive performances and goaltending, the Badger Bob factor pushes
me over the top. In '92, it was almost as if the Pens had two
coaches. Sure, Scotty Bowman did a great job managing superstars and
utilizing workhorses like Loney, Erey, and Bourque. But as I've heard
in countless interviews, every player on that team was still playing
for Badger Bob. If they wanted badly to win it in '91 for Bob, then I
dont think there are adjectives that do justice to how much the '92
Pens wanted to make it a "great day for hockey" in Pittsburgh.

As great a story as the '91 Pens were for a championship starved
city, the '92 Pens were just too hungry and too storybook: defending
champs, a mega-star determined after a cheapshot, a broken-jawed
Tocchet digging in the corners, Jagr ascending to Mario-like levels of
clutch-ness, Barasso back into his playoff comfort zone, the memory of
a lost coach and friend...

No one knew what the '91 Pens were capable of in their first stint
as contenders. With the '92 Pens, opponents didnt WANT to know what
they were capable of. Therefore......

Hey 1991-1992 Pittsburgh Penguins.....


No comments: