May 6, 2011

Chris Pronger - The Best Playoff Defenseman

Since the lockout Chris Pronger has been the best playoff defenseman in the game. His success cannot be disputed. He has appeared in 3 of the 5 Stanley Cup Finals and won once since the NHL took its yearlong break in 2005. What makes his contributions more impressive, is that he had been to three finals, with three different teams (Edmonton 2006, Anaheim 2007, Philadephia 2010). Never has he been more valuable than this year. Take a look at the Philadelphia Flyers with and without Pronger in the lineup. The team lacks leadership and misses his nastiness on the blueline. Last year Pronger would play between 25-30 minutes per game, and shut down the opposing teams best line on most nights. This year, he has only played in three playoff games. 

Back in March Pronger broke his right hand blocking a shot. Since then he has not been the same, nor have the Philadelphia Flyers. Without him, the Flyers have struggled in the playoffs, barely beating the Buffalo Sabres in 7 games, and currently losing in the conference semi-final to Boston three games to none. 

In the playoffs matchups are key, and over a 7 game series Pronger wears teams out with his gritty, often dirty play, and his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. He is a guy you hate when he is on the opposing team, and love him on yours. Pronger is a master of mind games, and as proficient a defenseman as there is on the power play. He is most missed when the team begins to break down in their defensive zone. Pronger is the type of player that makes everyone around him better by covering up mistakes made by other players. Without him in the lineup, those mistakes are magnified. Great defensive pairings are broken up, and players that look great with him on the ice, look below average without him.

The most obvious place where Pronger is missed is in net. Everyone knows what a circus the Flyers have been in goal, but last year they made the Stanley Cup Finals with the almost the same below average goaltending. Pronger was vital is making sure the opposition only got one shot. He clears the front of the net, and is a master of intimidation. There is no doubt the Flyers are a different team without him in the lineup. Did anyone know they would miss him this much?

Send comments or questions to me on twiiter @chyz1

Tonight’s schedule

San Jose @ Detroit 7:00pm EST

Philadelphia @ Boston 8:00pm EST

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