Thursday, May 08, 2008

The NHL Conference Finals Begin Tonight

Man! The hell if I didn't get much of anything right in that last round.

Things I had definitely not expected:

-- Joel Quenneville must have had some kind of nervous breakdown in between rounds, because he started making the most hilariously awful Bryan Murray decisions possible. ("Coach, I've given up four goals a game so far and I can't stop vomiting. Maybe I should, uh--" "YOU KEEP PLAYING GOD DAMMIT I DON'T CARE HOW MUCH FLU YOU HAVE")

-- Instead of the media talking endlessly about Sean Avery's play, they talked endlessly about Sean Avery's injury. In this case, however, it was understandable; his injury was a "lacerated spleen", which is simultaneously very painful and very fun to say. "Augh! My spleen!"

Peter Forsberg also injured his spleen once during a game, and he ultimately had to have it removed -- but that's because he's Peter Forsberg. He's Elijah Price on skates, of course he's injured his spleen before.

-- The Montreal crowd is a pretty awesome crowd, even if you're the sort of person that doesn't appreciate police cars being lit on fire. When it was finally established in the dying minutes of Game Five that their team was going to be eliminated, the crowd spontaneously broke into that Ole song -- but sang it more slowly and an octave lower, switching it from an anthem of enthusiasm to a song of sadness without changing the melody or words.

That was amazing. If a major motion picture included something like that in a climactic ending scene, the audience would be shaking their heads like "that's ridiculous, a crowd isn't capable of doing that in real life". Well, it turns out they are! Sorry, Montreal; maybe next year you can declare a mulligan and Washington will trade Huet back to you.

-- Marty Turco is still playing like it's the regular season? No sudden spectacular collapses yet? What planet am I on?

-- If anybody out there picked R.J. Umberger in their playoff pool: congratulations! You are going to win money. He's currently second place for goals this postseason, and he scored more goals in the last series than the entire Canadiens team scored in the last three games; I'm pretty sure the source of his newfound goal-scoring power must be the beard he's growing, because it makes him look uncannily like Kyle Farnsworth. Puttin' this dreadnaught away with a hammer blow! Yeah!

So even though I'm most likely going to be dead wrong, humour me regardless as I zip through another round of predicting things.

Eastern Conference

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers

Hockey is always more fun to watch when the two teams hate each other. Always, always, always. This should be included in the official rulebook somewhere, assuming it isn't already.

The Penguins have the obvious advantage on offence, and the Flyers have the obvious advantage in net, but the two teams are more similar than they are different; both teams have really fast little guys, really physical big guys, really severe shortcomings on the blueline and a really hostile disposition towards the team they share a state with.

It's the Intra-Pennsylvania Rivalry, to borrow an old Jian Gomeshi line. "I'm not talking about nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, I'm not talking about any of that -- I'm talking an agrarian revolt. Pitchforks! A spade! Go after those Pittsburgh people! What's your problem?"

The Penguins are both the heavy fan favourites and the heavy favourites to win, of course -- but by this point I've decided that I actually like the Flyers better, Georges Laraque's march to the Cup notwithstanding. I've watched enough professional wrestling in my life to know that sometimes it's more fun to root for the heels, especially when it's an asshole underdog against the invincible freshfaced favourite. And anything can happen in the WWF NHL, so it's entirely possible (though not necessarily probable) that Martin Biron could steal this series for the Vengeance Now set.

The Penguins look like the better team right now, probably because they are; they've made it to the Conference Finals in nine games, and the Rangers are far better competition than the Senators were. And I like a lot of their players, so I'm perfectly fine with the seeming inevitability of their victory. Even still -- come on, Flyers! You can totally do this! You've already ruined the year for Ovechkin fans and the entire nation of Canada; beat Crosby's team and you'll have crushed the hopes and dreams of the vast majority of fans! 100% RUDOS VENGEANCE NOWWWWWW

What I'd Want: Philadelphia in seven, with at least fifteen fights in the series.
What I'll Guess: Pittsburgh in five.

Western Conference

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (5) Dallas Stars

Watch this. Now that I'm actually expecting Dallas to win, Turco will give up twenty goals tonight.

Detroit is as consistent and unshakeable as ever, and they casually zipped through Colorado in four games because Jose Theodore was diseased and the Avalanche were missing six or seven key players. It was like a vacation! And Detroit won the regular-season series against Dallas quite handily, for what that's been worth this year. Hi again, Montreal!

Yes sir, Detroit is as good a team as they've ever been (since Yzerman retired, anyway) -- but damn, you guys, Dallas is playing like a team of destiny so far this postseason. You have to say it right, pause a little after "team" and say "destiny" a bit slower and deeper. "Team... of DESSSS-TINY!" That is how Dallas is doing. They've already knocked off two teams that were widely guaranteed to be Cup winners this year, and only one of those two teams so much as gave them any trouble at all.

Personally, I'm still getting used to having a day job again, so lately I've become one of those old curmudgeons who grumbles about the late starts in the Western Conference and then falls asleep before the sun sets. I'll do my best to keep up, though!

What I'd Want: Dallas in five. Team... of DESSS-TINY!
What I'll Guess: Dallas in six, and at least two of the games go into overtime.

What time is it now, two-thirty? I need a nap before Matlock.

1 comment:

jonathan said...

If anybody out there picked R.J. Umberger in their playoff pool: congratulations!...

Nobody in my playoff pool picked R.J., and our selections go 80 players deep. He's currently the leading scorer for "Team Hindsight", a computer-generated team of the best leftovers.

I'm as shocked as you are that Turco hasn't pulled his usual disappearing act. But I don't have Dallas winning this round. Even if Turco's play continues to be "off the chain", as the kids say, Detroit will win.

Philadelphia-Pittsburgh has the potential to be really interesting, especially since Pittsburgh hasn't had to deal with much in the way of physical play between Ottawa and the Prague Rangers. My desired outcome would be Philly in 4, with Hatcher breaking his leg at some point, and my pick is Philly in 6 (6th game in OT).