Midway through the regular season, I wrote about the top-rated "intangibles" players in the league, listing the top three for each team.
With one (or two) games left in the playoffs, I thought it would be worth re-visiting the exercise and the results point to one Penguin laying it on the line more than any other.
"We always knew that Brooks Orpik was a physical defenseman," head coach Michel Therrien told the Beaver County Times after Orpik's legendary performance in Game Three of the final. "He needed to learn when it was time to be physical."
Orpik, who leads the NHL playoffs in both hits and blocked shots, had a shift for the ages in Game Three, bouncing a handful of Red Wings with bone-rattling hits.
"They do have a lot of older guys," Orpik told reporters following Game Three. "So I think the more you can pound on them, it definitely takes a toll during the end of the series."
But, Orpik's penchant for sacrificing his body isn't limited to hits. In the Game Five overtime victory, Orpik blocked ten shots. Ten!
To his credit, the humble Orpik realizes that putting forth an all-out effort isn't such a big deal. "There's a lot harder things than playing hockey for six periods," Orpik told the Buffalo News following the OT marathon.
One reason Orpik can say that is that he doesn't have to play against himself.
Using hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways and face-offs, then, here are the top "intangible" players in the 2008 NHL playoffs.
Top Intangible Ratings - Playoffs
Brooks Orpik, D, Pittsburgh (2.66)
Brenden Morrow, LW, Dallas (1.86)
Stephane Robidas, D, Dallas (1.67)
Jason Smith, D, Philadelphia (1.49)
Ryan Malone, LW, Pittsburgh (1.26)
Joel Lundqvist, C, Dallas (1.20)
Mike Komisarek, D, Montreal (1.18)
Daniel Girardi, D, N.Y. Rangers (1.12)
Steve Ott, RW, Dallas (0.98)
Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit (0.82)
Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh (0.77)
Kimmo Timonen, D, Philadelphia (0.77)
Brad Stuart, D, Detroit (0.77)
A couple of points to note:
None of the Red Wings are right at the top, even if they are leading in the final series. This only furthers my emphasis that the more tangible statistics (ie. goals, assists, plus-minus) have greater value. It also can be explained by Detroit's puck-possession game -- a team that has the puck so frequently doesn't have nearly as many opportunities to hit the opposition or block shots.
That dominance with the puck also explains why the Wings dominated at the top of the NHL Player Rankings going into the final series.
Enjoy Game Six!
Scott Cullen can be reached at email@example.com