Monday, May 24, 2010

That Was Quick - On to the Stanley Cup Finals

So I tried to make a successful round in picking teams again, and yet, again, I failed. At least it couldn't have been as astronomically bad as the last round since there aren't as many teams to scout, analyze, and pick. However, I still managed to be wrong.

Out West, I figured the Blackhawks were too good for the San Jose Sharks. Chicago in previous series looked a little bit inconsistent, as they did during the season. Nonetheless, I just didn't see the Sharks being better than the Hawks. It was as easy as that.

I still thought that the series would be a little more competitive, predicting the Hawks winning in six or seven games, but the Sharks ended up completing a four-game sweep of San Jose. The individual games featured a Sharks team that was very good and had a lot of fight, but the Hawks were just that much better.

Chicago looked dominant, despite their slow starts. Three out of the four games, the Sharks scored first, although Chicago would often get their legs moving later in the game and dominate the remaining time.

The Blackhawks, at least, were the one team I can say I picked correctly all the way through, as I had them in the Stanley Cup Finals since the beginning of the playoffs. In fact, my Western Conference picks were not that heinous throughout the entire playoffs, so congratulations to me!

In the East, however, the mess continued for my predictions. I assumed that the Flyers would struggle mightily, as they still didn't have Jeff Carter and lost Maxim Lapierre, and thought that they spent everything they had completing the historic 3-0 comeback against the Boston Bruins. I also thought that the Canadiens would have had luck on their side, and the continuing stretch of Jaroslav Halak's impenetrability.

Boy, I was wrong...

The Canadiens decided to play dead and lose 6-0 in Game 1 to the Flyers in Philadelphia. But I wasn't moved because in the last series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Habs lost 6-3 in Game 1 and won that series in seven games. So I had no worries.

Again, I was wrong...

The Flyers continued to punish the Canadiens, winning Game 2 by the score of 3-0, giving them another record in the books in having the longest scoring stretch. I had faith after Montreal returned the favor by winning Game 3 5-1 on home ice, and figured that they just needed to change the venue.

Then came Game 4 and the Habs went back to the same crappy-crap-crapshoot style of hockey, losing that one 3-0 in another scoreless effort with only 17 shots (they call that something like the Diffusion of Responsibility in psychology). You must give credit when it is due, though. Michael Leighton, goaltender of the Flyers, has been outstanding in the place of Brian Boucher. Just imagine if he went down - Chris Pronger or something would have had to play goalie.
*Lester Patrick for the New York Americans anyone?

Game 5 was hopeful for those who picked Montreal to win, as they seemed to win every game where they faced elimination. This hope was built up when they scored first in Philadelphia. But once they let in an unfortunate goal (video coming soon), it went downhill from there. The Habs regained life after being down 3-1 coming within one goal at 3-2, but they were unable to get the equalizer and there it was - the #7 seeded Philadelphia Flyers were the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions in the playoffs.

How the hell this happened is beyond me; it baffled me enough a #7 seed got home-ice advantage in the Conference Finals.

Oh well, I am on my knees with this one to be right...


#2 Chicago Blackhawks over #7 Philadelphia Flyers in 5 games

The Blackhawks are too legitimate to lose to the Flyers in the Finals. The Western Conference has shown to be much stronger, and that the best teams truly do win out. I will give the Flyers credit to steal one game from them, but I highly doubt they have enough to win, even though they got almost their whole team back, minus Boucher.

I don't care that Barry Melrose predicted this final from the start. I still am bitter, I will admit. Considering the Flyers ran through a team they owned during the regular season a million times in New Jersey, then played a #6 seed and an #8 seed, they were given a better path than most of the other teams playing in the playoffs for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, they got past it, and I will give them that.

Still, the Blackhawks are winning, and I'm going to need them to win anyway. I live in a place there are wayyyyy too many Flyers fans right now.

The Finals will begin Saturday, May 29 at 8 p.m. on NBC at Chicago.

And no worries Red Sox fans, hockey season is almost over, and I will be getting to baseball soon :).

Friday, May 14, 2010

NHL Playoffs Round 3 - This is getting old...

"It's the NHL Playoffs," you say. "Why would you be getting tired of this!?"

Simple answer. It's not the playoffs I'm tired of, it's that I CONTINUE TO BE WRONG EVERY TIME!

We already went through how in Round 1, the Caps, Devils, Senators, and Coyotes were my downfall, and how the Caps were the source of intense grief.

I was at least content with my Western Conference picks. The West was much more predictable since they all seemed to be seeded at their appropriate talent level.

The East, however, was a mess. According to my Crashing the Net post, I would have only predicted one series correctly. But I covered my tracks by claiming on fellow sports guy Jay Scott's radio show that the Flyers would have a very high chance of defeating the Devils because of the Devils' failure to match up well against them.

So we move on the Round 2. I should have gotten through the tough part, right? Well, not so.

I easily explained away how the Canadiens would be too tired. The Habs would have spent too much energy to come back against the Caps with all that shot blocking to play the Penguins, who seemed to handle the Senators pretty well.

Flyers were too battered after losing two big players in Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne during Round 1. Secondly, the other underdog, the Bruins beat the Sabres in five games (at least I called that one), and would probably finish off the Flyers easily.

Out West, I expected the Sharks to choke in the second round like they normally do, and predicted the Blackhawks would have just a little bit more for the Canucks in a tough six or seven game series.

So much for all of that!

Caps fans were quite frustrated after the Penguins beat the Habs 6-3 after three straight games of the Caps scoring only one goal against Jaroslav Halak. The following game, Montreal turned back to form, winning 4-3. The rest of the series the two teams traded one-goal wins and losses until the Canadiens won Games 6 and 7, winning Game 7 convincingly by a score of 5-2, now dethroning the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Bruins were handling the Flyers pretty well, and were on the verge of sweeping them going up 3-0 after Game 3. However, Simon Gagne returned to the Flyers, and so did their ability to win. Philadelphia would take over the pace early on in the next three games, and tied the series at three-all. The Bruins turned the tide very early in Game 7, and led 3-0, taking a 3-1 lead after the first period. The Flyers took the game completely in the second period though, and went on to win the game and the series 4-3 in regulation. Much to the dismay of the Bruins' home fans, Philadelphia became the first team in 35 years and only the third in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win.

For the Sharks, I just sounded really stupid, as they ran through Detroit, beating them in five games. Needless to say, I had no founding for picking against them, and I will admit that.

At least I was accurate for once, choosing the Blackhawks to win over the Canucks in six games. I expected the individual games to be closer, as the Hawks were able to average 3.83 goals in the series (about five in every win) and won games like Game 7 5-1 and Game 4 7-4. But Game 1, the Canucks won 5-1 and won Game 6 by a score of 3-1, making me question their consistency like I did before.

So here are the Conference Finals predictions (sigh)... here we go...

Eastern Conference Finals
Round 3
#8 Montreal Canadiens defeat #7 Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games

Western Conference Finals
Round 3
#2 Chicago Blackhawks defeat #1 San Jose Sharks in 6 or 7 games

#2 Chicago Blackhawks defeat #8 Montreal Canadiens in 5 or 6 games

I look forward to the possibility of an Original Six Stanley Cup Final. It's great for hockey to see these teams experience the glory again.

Many can make the sentimental pick for the Blackhawks considering the following circumstances: The Hawks had classic greatness in the days of goaltender Charlie Gardiner (who died after winning the 1934 Cup, in case you didn't know, new hockey fans) in the 1930s, and then in the 1960s with Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, and Stan Mikita (need I go on listing?). Then the Blackhawks had their more recent years of sucking, and now experience the possibility of winning a Cup with young superstars.

However, the way Montreal has gone back to the old ways of playing and added the confidence in young players i.e. PK Subban. You can almost put behind you the fact that they won 24 Stanley Cups, including their last one coming in 1993. Either way, it would be a great series, and definitely the best for viewers watching.

Of course, as a hockey fan, we all know I'm going to watch regardless, and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm just going to boycott a Flyers entrance to the Finals a different way.

p.s. I am working on fixing my East Coast bias, so no worries, West Coasters, I've got your coverage this round!