Thursday, May 30, 2013

Four Left Standing

So now that we're down to the Conference Finals in the NHL, it's interesting to note that the four teams remaining are the last four Stanley Cup Champs -- the Penguins in '09, Blackhawks in '10, Bruins in '11 and the Kings last year.  So you have your defending champion taking on the President's Trophy winner (most regular season wins) in the Western Conference Final, and you have the Penguins (the team Jerome Iginla spurned the Bruins to play for) matching up against those Bruins in the Eastern Final.  And there's always the fact that Matt Cooke ruined the career of former Bruin Captain Marc Savard to add some drama and motivation and edge.
I found it surprising that this is the first time the last four Cup champs were the last four standing since sometime in the '50s.  The NHL being a six-team league up until the late '60s, you'd think this would've have happened more often.  But I digress.

I believe we have the four best teams in the league remaining and I felt they were the four best when the playoffs started but usually major upsets take out a few of the "best" teams.  You have outstanding matchups here in the Conference Finals and you're guaranteed a doozy in the Finals, no matter who matches up -- LA against Boston?  Talk about deep and physical teams going at it.  LA versus the Penguins?  Another deep team in Pittsburgh but one that seems to have unlimited offensive firepower going against the defending champs, plus star power any time the Penguins are involved.  How about an Original Six matchup between Chicago and Boston, two of the best sports towns in the country.  Or even the Blackhawks against the Penguins?  While I feel this is the least interesting matchup from a hockey standpoint (no real good reason for feeling that way, just that one matchup has to be least) but what a great matchup it would be anyway and it would be the matchup with the most marquee star power -- Malkin, Crosby, et al, vs Toews and Kane and company.
So who will match up in the Cup Finals?  I hate to say this and never bet against my Bruins but the Bruins are the fourth best team here.  I think we'll learn a lot about this series from game one because if the Bruins team that played the Rangers shows up, it'll be a long series.  And if the Bruins can exploit Pittsburgh only real weakness, goaltending, then they could pull the upset.
Same proviso regarding the western series -- which Blackhawk team shows up will make a big difference.  But even then, they're gonna have to solve Jonathan Quick.  Edge to LA.
What do you all think?  Hey Brent, how'd you end up with your picks?


Brent said...

I don't remember these picks you are talking about. You mean those things that I made right before the playoffs? Those were what would not happen in these playoffs.

And as for the best 4 teams left standing, I do not agree with you. I believe that Boston was the 4th Seed and that LA was the 5th Seed coming into the playoffs. Anaheim is a better team than LA, but they were eliminated by Detroit. It happens to some really good teams.

I like LA in the West. In the East, I will choose Boston, but that is a shaky pick at best. I like the farm hands on defense for Boston in the coming years. And since Ference still is not cleared to come back, they will be a big part of the Boston story this series. The Bruins need to play better than they did against the Rangers. The Rangers had no offense to speak of. The Penguins do.

R.J. said...

I can't make an Eastern Conference pick. We don't know which Marc-Andre Fleury will show up.

In the west I'm down with Chicago. Bleep LA!

Zebster said...

Brent, just because a team has a few more points doesn't in and of itself make them a better team. Other than Pittsburgh, who's better than Boston in the east? Montreal? pushaw Washington? Ditto. The eyeball test and hardware is what I go by. When the Bruins and the Kings are playing to their full capability, there's only 1 or 2 teams I'd rather have.

Brent said...

I liked Ottawa better than the Bruins as a team. I thought that they had the horses if injuries hadn't interceded to make a strong push for a top team in the league. I hate to admit this, but I like what Washington has. For some reason, they cannot get things together on the ice.

I would have put Boston fourth in the East. I am still leery about Rask and the defensive corps is something I didn't like coming into the season. But that unit looks like it will be real good with the youngsters in the next couple of years.

Zebster said...

I know it's hard for you to trust what I say because I'm a Bruin fan. I thought by also saying the same about the Kings would lend some credence. THE SENATORS??!! Are you kidding? The Bruins (even w/out those kids but with Seidenberg and Ference) are one of the top 5 defensive teams in the league and only with the possible exception of Pittsburgh, the Bruins are the deepest team in the league. Did you see what their 4th line did to NY?
The Senators are agood, gritty team and I like them but they are a handful of players away from being a legit contender. Remember, this exact Bruin team (except for Tim Thomas, noted) won the Cup two years ago. If you've been watching any playoff hockey, this is where the cream rises and you'll have a hard time finding any paid experts who aren't saying these are the 4 best teams in the league.
I think you're just trying to get under my skin. LOL It's going to be harder to prove since they're now playing the best team in the league but we'll see.

Brent said...

Oh great. You bring in Barry Melrose and Mike Milbury into the argument on your side. I am toast after that. LOL. And bringing in the 4th line argument against the Rangers will bring everybody to your side (sarcasm). And no, I am not kidding about the Senators.

Brent said...

According to, the Bruins were the 3rd best defensive team in the league. Ottawa was #2.

The Bruins were in the Top 10 in offense, Ottawa was #16. The difference isn't that great. Put Spezza on the Senators for most of the year and have Karlsson not suffering the ACL cut and I believe that the Senators would have been in the Top 10 of offense as well.

For goal differential, the Bruins were a +0.52 per game. The Senators were a +0.28 for the regular season. Add Spezza's average of 27 goals a season and the Ottawa goal differential goes up to almost 0.40. While you might not see it, the Senators are a rising team that should have won the Northeast this season.

With their roster, they will become serious contenders to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals real soon. Zeb, you might not see it, but the Senators need to be taken more seriously than those jokers that call Montreal their home.

Zebster said...

I understand all that...I've been giving the Sens props all season, just ask RJ. Yes, they're on their way but they are not as good as the Bruins yet. You may not take this into consideration but I do -- the Sens played at or above their heads all season, the Bruins most definitely did not. It cost them the Div title and #2 seed and almost cost them a first round exit. If the Bruins play to their potential against Pitt, I think you'll see the difference vs how an overmatched Sens team looked against the Pens.