Saturday, May 31, 2008

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Wingers: Matt Bradley

We’re back with another winger to look at…

Matt Bradley

Theme: “…gives a lickin' and it keeps on stickin'"

That’s a take on the old Timex watch jingle, but it seems to suit Bradley, who is as representative of the term “energy forward” as you’re likely to find anywhere. In a strange way, Bradley is a reflection of the change in philosophy on the part of the Caps that came with the coaching change, although part of what Bradley’s effect might have been could also be a product of the absence of Chris Clark for most of the season. The indicator is ice time.

Here are Bradley’s ten-game splits…

But here are Bradley’s ten-game splits for ice time…

Bradley consistently received more and more ice time as the season progressed. Of particular note, Bradley played in 16 of 21 games through Thanksgiving, and only twice did he receive more than ten minutes of ice time (and one of those was in a blowout 7-1 win in Toronto). Bradley played in all 61 games after the Thanksgiving break, and in only 23 of them did he play less than ten minutes (nine of those coming in the first nine games after the break…and the coaching change).

And why the jump in time?...Well, Bradley hits things. A lot. Alex Ovechkin is acknowledged as a big hitter among forwards, especially skill forwards. However, Bradley more than holds his own in that department. Ovechkin registered 220 hits in 82 games while averaging 23:06 in ice time a game. Sparing you the math, that works out to 0.12 hits per minute of ice time. Bradley, with 126 hits in 77 games averaging 9:59 of ice time a game, averaged 0.16 hits per minute of ice time. If he’s out there, he’s going to punish something.

It isn’t as if he was a stiff on offense, either. While not ever likely to assume the role of a top-six forward, he had two game winning goals this year. It might not sound like a lot, but it was as many as Alexander Semin had…Viktor Kozlov, too. It doesn’t include his game-winning goal scored in the 12th round of the Gimmick, against Edmonton on January 17th.

Bradley’s performance this year is also indicative of the benefits of getting supplemental scoring. In 41 Caps wins this year, Bradley was 7-10-17, +14. In 36 losses, he registered only an assist and was -13.

There is another statistic for Bradley that is surprising, and it cleaves into two parts. For someone as rambunctious in his style as Bradley, one might have expected he have more than 74 penalty minutes in 77 games. 50 of those minutes came as a result of ten fighting majors, second to Donald Brashear’s 12 (the Caps were 5-4-1 in games in which Bradley dropped the gloves). Only 24 minutes were earned – 12 minor penalties – otherwise. That was as many minor penalties as Nicklas Backstrom had.

It would be fair to say of Bradley that he is one of those unsung guys that earns a living toiling in the trenches. We can’t know if he likes that role (no kid grows up dreaming of mucking in the corners, we suspect), but it is one he seems to have embraced – gives a lickin’, and keeps on stickin’. And the Caps appear to have embraced him as well, rewarding him with a three-year, $3 million contract extension. Given his role and his ability to play intelligently within the confines of it, Bradley deserves a decent grade for this year…


No comments: