2015 Playoff Predictions: Stanley Cup Final

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It’s been a long three days without hockey, but thankfully and also sadly, the Stanley Cup Final will be starting tomorrow. My Conference Finals predictions were way off, so I hope no one’s relying on those for any betting or brackets (all six of you who are probably skimming over this). Check out my predictions for rounds one, two, and three if you haven’t already and enjoy my final input on this year’s playoffs.

  • Tampa Bay Lighting (D2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (D3)

The Lightning got to this point by taking advantage of their speed and young talent. Tyler Johnson has been beyond incredible, scoring 15 goals in 20 games and leading all players. I think his speed will surprise even the Hawks’ defensemen, but I also think that his teammates (other than Stamkos) will have a much harder time breaking through in this series. The Lightning’s top six forwards, consisting of Stamkos and the “Triplets”, will be facing four very strong defensemen in Chicago’s top two pairings which consists of Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, and Oduya. Chicago’s depth up front gives them the luxury of placing a player like Patrick Sharp on the third line. Although Chicago’s offense still relies heavily on Kane and Toews, the scoring is more spread out as they have twelve players with two or more goals in these playoffs whereas the Lightning only have six. The goaltending hasn’t been the most consistent for either team. Crawford has looked much better since being pulled in the first round and Bishop’s two of his three shutout came in the last round but he still allowed five or more goals in three of the seven games against the Rangers. Chicago scores 3.29 goals per game, but also has a higher average of goals allowed per game than the Lightning do.

Before I began writing this, I honestly did not know which team would come out on top but now I’ve got to give this one to the Blackhawks. It’s almost inexplainable but they’re just too good and they still have much of their core group of guys left from the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup-winning teams. I think Tampa Bay can surely compete with Chicago and also win this one, but it all depends on which team (i.e. Ben Bishop) wants to show up. The same goes for Chicago but they’ve been through this many times before and know what it takes to win.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

To anyone who’s read or clicked on this or any of my past posts, thank you for taking the time to look at it. I hope my posts were something you were able to agree or conflict with, start conversations or arguments over, and maybe were something you learned from. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are fun for the players as much as they are for the fans, and I hope that you were able to connect with a team at some point during these grueling rounds. I am closing this one with the same way I closed my previous Finals prediction, with my all-time favourite commercial, and another one that’s grown on me during these playoffs.

Enjoy!

 

2015 Playoff Predictions: Round 3

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Is there a better way to end a playoff round than with a game 7 overtime? For all Caps fans, I’m sorry that your team hasn’t made it to the conference finals since 1998. I thought that this would be the year, I really did. And as a Habs fan whose team got pummeled by the Rangers in the conference finals last year, I can’t say I’m really excited to see them there again although they deserve it.

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Photo by: Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

In the West, both Chicago and Anaheim will have had at least a week of rest, advancing after winning just four and five games, respectively. Their series will start on Sunday, and if you haven’t really watched playoff hockey this year (don’t know why you wouldn’t) this is definitely the series to watch. I think this one will be even more exciting than the Stanley Cup Final and is worth the late night game times if you’re watching from an Eastern time zone.

With rounds one and two all wrapped up, here are my prediction for the Conference Finals:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  • New York Rangers (C1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (D2)

The Lightning have been getting lucky with their opponents after facing Montreal and now facing New York, two teams that they haven’t lost to in this past regular season. That’s not to take away from the abilities of the Lightning and although playoffs are another story, it still helps to have that little bit of confidence. The Rangers, on the other hand, are coming off a game 7 overtime win and each of their games in this year’s playoffs have been decided by just one goal. This group is tired and they are facing an almost fully healthy and young Tampa lineup. Stamkos finally found his scoring touch during the last round, which can pose a dangerous threat, even when the Rangers have King Lundqvist in net. The “triplets” line has remained consistent, dominating the Canadiens in round 2 and the Rangers during the season. The Rangers still have the lowest goals allowed per game in these playoffs, but they also have the second-to-lowest goals for per game and will need more production from players like Nash, Hagelin, and St. Louis (who has yet to score in these playoffs). The Rangers do have the edge defensively and in depth offensively and their penalty kill will come in handy while facing a not-so-impressive Tampa power play. If the Rangers can contain the Lightning’s speed and stick to their game plan they should have more luck this time around. The Lightning could very well win this series, but the Rangers have experience and are hungry for a second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in as many years.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

WESTERN CONFERENCE

  • Anaheim Ducks (C1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (D3)

These teams both have experience, depth, and star power, making this one of the most exciting series of these playoffs. The Ducks have had an injury-free lineup (for all that we know) and have Core Perry leading the playoffs in points and Getzlaf leading in assists. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks is right behind Perry in the points and goals category and with Crawford back to his playoff form, the Blackhawks are looking like the usual playoff powerhouse. The Blackhawks won two of their three games against the Ducks this season but Anaheim has found a way to step their game up even more during the postseason. The Ducks’ power play has significantly improved in the playoffs and at a 31.0% success rate, the 12th-ranked Chicago penalty kill will need to really improve to contain Anaheim. The Ducks have not really been challenged in the first two rounds, playing Winnipeg and Calgary, so this will be a real test as to how good of a team they can be. Although the Blackhawks have only played one more game than the Ducks so far, they have faced adversity with their challenged goaltending in round one and a season-ending injury to defenseman Michal Rozsival. The Blackhawks are unstoppable in the playoffs, but I think that Anaheim’s depth will overcome the Blackhawks’ stars.

Prediction: Ducks in 7

My favourite part about the conference finals is that you’re guaranteed a hockey game on TV every night. Although most of us are facing the sad fact that our team is no longer playing, these next two rounds remind us of why we love the game and the intense competition and sacrifice that comes with the sport. Whether you’re a hardcore hockey fan or new to the game, take the time to enjoy these games because nothing can compare to them.

2015 Playoff Predictions: Round 2

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The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs didn’t lack in storylines, with the Ducks sweeping the Jets, the goaltending changes in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Chicago, and two thrilling game 7s in the East. The Eastern and Western Conference champs each advanced in a dominating fashion, winning in five and four games, respectively. After an exciting first round, here’s what my bracket looks like:
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I got a lot of heat for thinking that Chicago would be knocked off in the first round, but like I said in my last post, I thought that they could have very well come out on top. Regardless, that series screwed up my almost perfect bracket but would’ve made me look like a genius if Nashville did win.

With the playoffs set to start tonight, here are my second round predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  • New York Rangers (C1) vs. Washington Capitals (D2)

Ranked first and second in the Metropolitan Division, this series might be the one with the greatest rivalry in this round. The Capitals lost three of their four meetings against the Rangers in the regular season and will face a tough task against a team that hasn’t played in almost a week. Ovechkin is the obvious threat on the Caps but keep an eye out for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had three goals in the first round including the series winner. The Capitals defensive core is solid too but I don’t see the Rangers having much of a hard time containing the Capitals forwards with their playoff-leading 1.60 goals allowed per game. The Capitals didn’t let in any shorthanded goals against the Islanders but that same penalty kill ranked 14th during the regular season and they don’t have room to test it, even though the Rangers have not been a great power play team. The biggest weakness the Caps have right now is their goaltending. Lundqvist has been his usual stellar self while Washington’s Holtby has looked very shaky. The Rangers gave Holtby the hardest time during the season, aside from Columbus, as he posted a 3.06 GAA and .897 save percentage after their four meetings. In the playoffs, goaltending is key and Holtby will need to completely change his game if he wants to give his team a chance.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

  • Montreal Canadiens (C2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (D2)Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 4.17.53 PM

The team every Habs fan was praying not to face, the Lighting will play the Canadiens two days after a 2-0 win over Detroit in game 7. Tampa Bay won each of their five meetings against the Canadiens during the regular season and finished right behind Montreal in the standings. Although the Habs swept the Lightning in the first round last year, that story would have been a lot different if Tampa’s starting goalie wasn’t injured. Ben Bishop has an edge over Vezina and Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price in the regular season but both goalies have been keeping up their solid goaltending for each of their teams. Neither team excelled in special teams in the first round, but the Canadiens power play has been a serious concern and something needs to change if they want to come out on top. Stamkos didn’t score a goal for Tampa Bay in the first round but the “Triplets” line of Johnson, Palat, and Kucherov has been doing some serious damage. The Canadiens have been getting contributions from their third and fourth lines with Mitchell, Weise, and Flynn scoring at key moments and Smith-Pelly leading the team in hits. If the Canadiens can figure out their power play and get more scoring from their top lines they can come out on top in what is sure to be a challenging, hard-fought series. Despite their poor regular season play against the Lighting, the Canadiens have shown in the past that they can succeed in the playoffs when they’re faced with a challenge. I hope that this is true again this time, although I know that Tampa can also be the team that advances from this round.

Prediction: Canadiens in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

  • Anaheim Ducks (C1) vs. Calgary Flames (D3)

It’s easy to see the Ducks as the heavy favorites in this series but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Flames this season it’s not to count them out too early. Their ability to win games in the third period is what got them into the playoffs and is how they knocked Vancouver out (although you can also say that Vancouver typically can’t protect a lead). Like I mentioned in my last post, the Ducks’ depth is a dangerous asset to their team although Calgary’s forwards have been really pulling through for them. Both teams have ten players with at least one goal and no one player has more than three goals. The competition between Calgary’s first line of Monahan, Gaudreau, and Hudler and Getzlaf and Perry on the Ducks will be intense and important for both teams but this series will come down to the bottom two lines and finishing games. The Ducks averaged four goals per game in their four-game series against the Jets, but the Flames had a hard-hitting series against the Canucks and if they can tire some of the Ducks forwards, don’t expect this to be an easy win.

Prediction: Ducks in 6

  • Chicago Blackhawks (D3) vs. Minnesota Wild (WC1)

Minnesota is the only wild card team to advance to the second round and will face Chicago in the playoffs for the third straight year. They haven’t been able to solve the Blackhawks and I’m not sure that this year will be any different. The ultimate battle will come between the stars of each team. Toews and Kane are the obvious threats for Chicago and Parise and Pominville have been coming up big for Minnesota. Dubnyk, a Vezina Trophy finalist, has kept up his consistent play and Chicago will face some problems if they find themselves switching between Crawford and Darling again (Crawford is supposedly their starter to begin the series). Chicago’s slacking penalty kill will need to be better if Minnesota will keep up their playoff-leading 33.3% power play success rate. I’d like to see Minnesota come out on top (no, I’m not a Chicago hater) but Chicago is just Chicago and this could be the last good run for this group of guys. Expect some late nights for some of these games, as is typical of Chicago to play well into overtime.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7

2015 Playoff Predictions: Round 1

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With the weather warming up here in Montreal and exams coming up, it finally feels like playoff time. After requests and praise (from the three people who read this blog) over my past Stanley Cup playoff predictions, I present to you my (almost) annual predictions. I correctly predicted five of the eight teams advancing to the second round the last time I did this, so hopefully this one turns out better for me and I can have a shot at the NHL’s bracket challenge

 EASTERN CONFERENCE

  • New York Rangers (C1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2)

Pittsburgh barely squeaked their way into the final playoff spot and with all the injuries they’ve suffered, I don’t see a surge of momentum coming their way especially when they’re facing the league’s top team. After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, the Rangers have mastered the combination of speed and grit that is integral in the playoffs. Pair that with a brick wall as a goaltender in Lundqvist and a very reliant backup in Cam Talbot and they’re almost unstoppable. Pittsburgh played with only five defensemen for a stretch late in the season and with Kris Letang out of the lineup, it will be very hard to fill that void. On the offensive side, the Rangers can count on any line to put up points or keep opponents from scoring, whereas the Penguins rely heavily on Crosby’s line. The Rangers have limited Crosby to two points in their four regular season meetings so the Pens will have to find a new tactic if they want to even compete in this round. I’ll be bold and call a sweep, only because I think if there is one series that a sweep will happen in, it will be this one.

 Prediction: Rangers in 4

  • Montreal Canadiens (C2) vs. Ottawa Senators (WC1)

This series is very reminiscent of the 2013 playoffs, which is why Habs fans might be really nervous in this first round. The Senators once again waited until the last game of the season to clinch a spot and they are entering the playoffs with some strong momentum. Andrew ‘Hamburglar’ Hammond’s 20-1-2 record is the main reason why Ottawa is in this position, along with rookie Mark Stone’s 64 points and key late-season goals. The Habs have been without star forward Max Pacioretty lately but he might come back for Game 1. Carey Price is pulling off ridiculous numbers this season and I don’t see him slowing down at all. On defense, the Habs have the upper hand as there isn’t much on the Sens side after the top pairing of Karlsson and Methot. If the Habs can figure out their power play, there should not be a repeat of 2013. Although the Senators have more momentum coming into this series and don’t have much to lose, I don’t see it lasting for long and if it does get them through the first round, it won’t last for the second.

Prediction: Montreal in 6

  • Tampa Bay Lightning (D2) vs. Detroit Red Wings (D3)

Tampa Bay has pulled off one of its best seasons thanks to their speed and young talent. Seven of the Lightning’s forwards have scored at least 15 goals this season and Steven Stamkos will be hard to contain, as always. Detroit relies on its usual forwards in Datsyuk and Zetterberg, with youngsters Tatar and Nyquist taking over most of the goal scoring. Detroit’s shakiness in goal will hurt them with both Howard and Mrazek having subpar seasons. The big question mark on Tampa Bay’s side is their injuries on defense. Coburn and Killorn could be in the lineup for Game 1 but the Red Wings can roll out three consistent pairings. Even if Detroit’s defense can be consistent and prevent turnovers, it will be tough if the goalies can’t pick up the slack. I just don’t think that Detroit is the playoff team they used to be and Tampa Bay’s speed will overwhelm Detroit’s aging veterans.

Prediction: Tampa Bay in 5

  • Washington Capitals (D2) vs. New York Islanders (D3) 

On paper, these teams are very even. They ended the season with the same amount of points and each team won its two home games when they played each other in the regular season. Both teams have star forwards in Ovechkin and Tavares and have the capability to not put all the pressure on them, although they will each play a major role in their respective team’s success. The goalies are also comparable, Holtby posting a .931 save percentage in the postseason for Washington and Halak posting a .923. Washington had the most power play success in the NHL this season and New York’s 26th ranked penalty kill won’t be one to stop the Caps. In this evenly matched series, I see the Capitals overall team balance helping them outlast New York.

Prediction: Washington in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE 

  • Anaheim Ducks (C1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (WC2)

This will be Winnipeg’s first time in the playoffs since the team relocated from Atlanta in 2011 and it will prove to be a big test for them. The Ducks dominated the Pacific Division and California with their deep lineup and experience. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler have been effective as always, while younger guys like Beleskey, Cogliano, and Palmieri are making up most of the third line. The Ducks have the upper edge in goaltending over Pavelec, with Andersen and Gibson sharing the job during the season. Neither team excels in special teams and staying out of the box will be key for both teams. Dustin Byfuglien proved he’s still a threat when he returned from an injury but his discipline will be tested against this skilled Ducks team.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

  • St. Louis Blues (C2) vs. Minnesota Wild (WC1)

Both teams are similar in that they don’t allow many shots per game but do take a great amount of shots on opponents. Goalies will be tested, Devan Dubnyk having carried the Wild through the second half of the season and Jake Allen seeming to have taken the upper hand over veteran Brian Elliot. Tarasenko has been hot for the Blues, scoring 37 goals this season and can make up for the Blues’ uncertainty in goal. The Wild’s depth will test the Blues’ skillset in what should be a tight series. With first-round exits in the past two season, I want to believe that St. Louis will have what it takes to make it to the next round, but my gut tells me this will be Minnesota’s series.

Prediction: Wild in 7

  • Nashville Predators (D2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (D3)

It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks are an experienced team, many of their successes resulting from their depth and ability to score. The big question will be when Patrick Kane will return from his broken collarbone injury. The power forward, who has 91 points in 93 playoff games, will definitely play in this round and could play as soon as Game 1 so the Blackhawks will be in full force. Filip Forsberg will be one to watch on Nashville, scoring 26 goals in his first NHL season. With both teams being in the top three for shots per game, Rinne and Crawford will be tested and both goalies have been having stellar seasons. Although Nashville lost three of the four regular season meetings against the Blackhawks, two of those losses went to extra time. I see Nashville coming out on top in this one but this could also be Chicago’s series.

Prediction: Nashville in 6

  • Vancouver Canucks (D2) vs. Calgary Flames (D3)

Calgary is one of the worst puck-possession and first period teams but their ability to pull through late in games, and late in the season, have made them a strong force in the West. If their young guys like Monahan and Gaudreau can keep up their regular season pace and the veterans stay consistent, this won’t be an easy task for Vancouver. Miller, who just came back from a knee injury, will probably start in goal over Lack, and if he can get into his pre-injury playing shape he won’t make it easy for Calgary. Calgary’s power play will also need to be better with Vancouver having had the second best penalty kill percentage in the NHL. Despite these factors, Calgary should be able to maintain the pace they’ve had lately and make it tough for Vancouver.

Prediction: Calgary in 6

As a Canadiens fan I’ll obviously be watching every one of their games but I’m also very interested in the St. Louis/Minnesota and the Chicago/Nashville series. Feel free to comment with your own predictions and let me know if you agree or disagree with my predictions and what series you’re most excited for. Be sure to come back for my Round 2 predictions as soon as this round is over.

Happy playoffs!

My Day With Stanley: Take Two

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Some NHL players are fortunate enough to earn the right to be called Stanley Cup champions. If they’re lucky, they may hoist the prestigious NHL trophy  more than once. Some hockey fans are grateful to be able to take part in a champion’s celebrations. If they’re lucky, they might go through a day with the Stanley Cup more than once. This is how I got lucky.

The Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years and most of the current roster got to go through their day with the Cup for the second time. For Justin Williams, this was his third time, also winning it with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 prior to joining the Kings. This day was a little different than the rest as he also had his day with the Conn Smythe Trophy as a result of being named the MVP of the playoffs.

Two years ago, I wrote about how I got to spend my day with Stanley when Williams brought the Cup to his summer home in Ventnor, New Jersey. This year, Williams spent his day much like he had in 2012 and he even got a second day with the Cup that he spent in his hometown of Cobourg, Ontario. My family lives in a small town outside of Ventnor and although I moved back to Montreal since 2012, there was no way I was missing this chance of spending another day with the prestigious Stanley Cup. After getting my day off from work approved and booking my 12-hour bus trip from Montreal to Atlantic City, I was all set to go through this again.

This time I thought it would be really special to share the experience with my ten-year-old sister. I have always shared with her as much hockey knowledge as I can, hoping that she will grow to have the same appreciation for the sport as I do. It always brightens my day when she wants to watch a game with me or tells me she looks away every time she sees someone wearing a Flyers shirt so giving her the opportunity to be in the presence of the Stanley Cup and a true champion was probably the most fulfilling part of this day.

First, we went for a drive past Justin’s house to kill some time, hoping to maybe get a glimpse of the Cup. There were some kids playing street hockey outside and he seemed to have a lot of family over, but no view of the Stanley Cup.

Justin Williams and his hardware in front of city hall

Justin Williams and his hardware in front of city hall

Williams makes his way though the crowd at the city hall

Williams makes his way though the crowd at the city hall

 

The Conn Smythe Trophy follows Justin away from city hall

The Conn Smythe Trophy follows Justin away from city hall

Justin Williams with my little sister outside of Ventnor City Hall

Justin Williams with my little sister outside of Ventnor City Hall

 

 

At 2:30, we rode our bikes to Ventnor City Hall, where the Cup would be making an appearance. I wore my LA Kings t-shirt and my sister wore an Alex Kovalev (my favorite player) Montreal Canadiens t-shirt that I had outgrown. Justin Williams pulled up in his party van just a few feet away from us, giving my sister her first view of the big shiny trophy as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy. After a few quick speeches and the presentation from the mayor to Justin with the key to the city, Justin and his hardware made their way through the crowd, stopping to take a few quick pictures with some kids on the way. My sister was one of those lucky kids to get a picture and I had a proud big sister moment, asking if she had touched it and if she knew how big of a deal this was. Being that we were in a crowd wearing mostly Philadelphia Flyers gear, it was pretty cool when Justin noticed her shirt, saying “Montreal Canadiens, eh?” and the Keeper of the Cup adding “Wrong team!” As we were riding back home, Justin’s bus pulled over and the Cup was on the sidewalk just a few feet from us so that was pretty neat too.

Me with the Conn Smythe Tophy in the lobby at Caesar's

Me with the Conn Smythe Tophy in the lobby at Caesar’s

 

After I got home and changed, I went to pick up my friend Ryan and we headed over to the Caesar’s Casino in Atlantic City where the trophies would be on display. We were meeting up with one of Justin’s buddies who is also friends with one of my cousins. This was the same guy who got me and Ryan into Justin’s private party two years ago. When we got to Caesar’s he told us that we wouldn’t be able to get into the party this time, as Justin was having a smaller get-together since he had an early flight to Ontario to catch the next day. However, he was still able to get us up close to the trophies.

The Stanley Cup was on display in the casino lobby, where a long line of people waited to get their picture taken with it. On the other hand, the Conn Smythe was not approachable, unless of course you knew someone who had the keys to the gate it was behind.

Around 6 o’clock, the Cup and the Conn Smythe were taken off the display and made their way to a private room in preparation for the party. It was a funny feeling walking through the casino floor with three security guards, the Keeper of the Cup holding Stanley, and Justin’s friend holding the Conn Smythe, people giving us strange looks while most others were too attached to their slot games to even notice what was going on behind them. At one point I remember hearing a woman say “There was this huge line of people waiting to see this thing. I don’t get what the big deal is.” I just snapped my head back to see who said that, thinking to myself “You have no idea how much history is behind that trophy and how lucky you are to have even seen it.” Crazy hockey fan problems…

Mine and Ryan's golden moment with the Stanley Cup

Mine and Ryan’s golden moment with the Stanley Cup

Anyways, we made it to the room where Stanley and Smythe got a quick polish and my friend and I had our pictures taken. We were able to actually lift the trophies, careful not raise the Stanley Cup above our heads. It’s a rule in the hockey world that you can’t hoist the Stanley Cup above your head unless you’ve won it and earned that right. It’s a sign of respect to the people who have made sacrifices and put in the hard work that goes behind being a Stanley Cup champion. I knew that rule as Walt Neubrand, the Keeper of the Cup, handed us Stanley and I also knew that  part of the Keeper’s job was to enforce that rule. So it was interesting to see the hesitation behind Walt as he handed us the Cup and how he told us to be careful not to raise it too high. We got to chat with the Keeper for a little and he explained to us how there are thee Keepers and he traveled with it to all the “local” (Ontario, Quebec, and the Noartheastern United States) players’ homes. He was telling us how it had just gotten back from Europe and how he would be heading over to Ontario with Justin the next day for Justin’s hometown parade.

Who's the real MVP?

Who’s the real MVP?

The hardware -- Smythe and Stanley

The hardware — Smythe and Stanley

My second day with the Cup, like the first, was definitely a day I will never forget. As a hockey fan, you only dream of having your chance to get up close to NHL players and prestigious trophies such as these ones. I can’t say which day I enjoyed more, as they were both unique and any opportunity to hang out with the Stanley Cup is an enjoyable one. I can say that I am grateful to have had these opportunities and the long bus ride was totally worth it.

 

“What makes it so perfect is that it’s big enough for both hands. All the other sports, it’s really one hand in triumph. The World Series trophy is too fragile to handle while celebrating, but not the Stanley Cup — it’s made for two hands and two arms way up in the air. It’s the timeless and universal symbol of triumph.”
-Ken Dryden, Montreal, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979

2013 Playoff Predictions: Stanley Cup Final

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The time has finally come to crown a champion. Who will it be? The team that broke a record for longest point streak in NHL history or the team that swept one of the best teams in the league and shut down some of the best players in the world? These playoffs have been full of Original Six matchups but this one will surely be the most interesting. Neither team lacks experience, as the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and the Blackhawks in 2010. This series will mark the first time these two clubs have met in the Stanley Cup Finals and the first time they’ll play one another since the beginning of last season.

  • Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Boston Bruins (4)
    The Blackhawks need to take advantage of the talented forwards they have meaning Toews and Kane will need to perform at a higher level than they have throughout these playoffs while guys like Sharp, Bickell, and Shaw remain consistent. Rask is too hot of a goalie right now and the Hawks can’t afford to slack off on offense. He is first in the NHL for his .943 postseason save percentage and managed to stop 134 of 136 shots in the previous series against a very talented and deep Pittsburgh crew. He needs his offense to play as they have throughout these playoffs, which doesn’t seem like a problem as Boston’s forwards, including Bergeron, Marchand, and Krejci, have been seemingly getting better through each game. Neither team has been good on the power play but they both make up for it with strong play on the penalty kill. If one of these teams can find a solution to their power play problems, that could be a vital series changer. Home ice advantage has also been a factor in these playoffs as the home teams have a .700 win percentage. The Blackhawks will win if they can get major scoring from their superstars and take advantage of being the home team. The Bruins will win if they don’t change their game and play big, bad Bruin hockey. That’s exactly what they did against the Penguins and the Pens ended up changing their game to match that of the Bruins and eventually getting swept.
    Prediction: Bruins in 6

Whether you cheer for either team or hate them both, there is nothing like the Stanley Cup Finals. The games are always filled with intensity, passion, and emotion and they really prove that a team’s regular season record means almost nothing in the playoffs. Watching the games and feeling like you are part of the playoffs in some kind of way is unlike any other feeling. Enjoy the rush because games like these only last for a few days each year but in those days, hockey fans realize what the sport is all about and why they fell in love with it in the first place.

2013 Playoff Predictions: Round 3

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The Eastern Conference Final was set up early as both the Bruins and the Penguins ended the previous round in five games. The Western Conference was another story, as both series went to a Game 7. The four remaining teams are the last four teams to win the Stanley Cup and a total of 56 previous Stanley Cup Champions will be playing. The Kings will try to defend their Cup title against a Chicago team that was heavily favored throughout this season while the Penguins will prove just how good their lineup is when they face the big, bad Bruins.

EAST

  • Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. Boston Bruins (4)

Depth. That’s exactly what the Penguins have and why they will be tough to play against. Their top two forward lines consist of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, Kunitz, and Dupuis, and every forward who has dressed for the Penguins since the playoffs began has had at least one point in these playoffs. The Penguins will not be easy to shut down but the Bruins do have a better defense that can make life for Pittsburgh’s stars a little more difficult. Of course they have Zdeno Chara but rookies Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski have been playing like veterans for the Bruins. Krug has been exceptional, scoring his first four NHL goals in these playoffs, three of them being on the power play. Both teams have different, but nevertheless impressive stories when it comes to goaltending. For the Penguins, Vokoun was supposed to be a back-up for Fleury but replaced him in Game 5 in Round 1 and has gone 6-1 ever since. Rask has taken over the number one spot in goal since Tim Thomas decided to take the year off to “reconnect with his friends, family and faith” and has been doing a great job. Both teams have talent and are strong competitors, but the team with the greater depth and better coaching will eventually win this one.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

WEST

  • Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (5)

Both teams played a seventh game in the previous round that ended with a score of 2-1. The Blackhawks were able to pull off a 3-1 series deficit and kick the Red Wings out of the playoffs but getting past the defending Stanley Cup Champions will be no easy task. The Kings are regaining their confidence at the right time and are starting to play like champions once again. Quick is the best goalie in the playoffs on paper and Crawford should be able to challenge the LA goalie. The key in this series will be how the forwards perform. Justin Williams is known for being a force in game sevens and if he could play like he did in the last game against the Sharks, he could also improve the play of line mates Brown and Kopitar. The Kings forwards are big yet fast, with the average weight of the top 12 forwards being 211 pounds. The Blackhawks may not match up in size but they make up for it in skill. If Toews can maintain his composure and lead by example, the Hawks can definitely challenge the Kings with talented players like Kane and Hossa. This series could go either way. Chicago was the favorite in these playoffs and they were dominant over LA in the regular season but none of that matters now. Both teams are playing solid hockey right now and with 19 Stanley Cup champions on the Kings’ roster and eight on that of the Blackhawks, these games should be tough ones to win for each team.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7