Saturday, June 01, 2013

The NHL Stanley Cup Conference Finals Begin Tonight

Well, hello there, everyone! I've just returned home from the closing ceremonies of the Canadian Library Association 2013 National Conference and Trade Show (henceforth "CLA Conference", because I'm not typing that out again); if you've been wondering about my almost total disappearance for the last four days, that's what I've been up to. Learning all day! Socializing all night! Rising and shining bright and early the next day for more learning! SLEEP IS FOR WORK WEEKS.

I'll be watching the official website for the eventual arrival of the conference slides and other related materials, and then -- hopefully, if things don't get too busy around here -- sharing some photos and impressions and whatnot.

Ah, but there I go, carrying on about unrelated matters when there is pressing business to tackle. Playoff predictions! I've been two-thirds right on them so far this year -- which is sort of an overperformance against previous years, actually -- and it's probably all downhill from here, but I intend to try nonetheless!

Eastern Conference

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

You know, I think I've finally learned a valuable lesson out of all of this: stop pretending that the Rangers are ever a legitimate contender. (It made for a pretty impressive playoff-time magic trick, though, what with roughly a gazillion dollars suddenly becoming invisible and all.)

Somewhat amazingly, the forward advantage for Pittsburgh isn't as dramatic as you'd initially expect; Boston is as big and nasty as ever, has enough breakout speed reserved to catch the Penguins' defence off-guard, and can put up a whole pile of points in a hurry. (Would you believe that the leading playoff scorer so far this year is David Krejci?) If they were hanging three to five goals a night on Lundqvist, what's to stop them lighting up Vokoun like a Christmas tree? And if the Bruins, who have the goaltending advantage to begin with, manage to chase Vokoun, the Penguins will feel obligated to give franchise goalie Fleury a try, and... yeah, no. That'd end exactly the way you think that'd end.

I can't speak for America, the Boston Marathon bombing still fresh in everyone's minds, but the Penguins are markedly the sentimental favourites up here in the North, and it's certainly plausible that they can advance to the Cup Final if their goaltending holds. Having said that, the consensus among people I've talked to is that A) most everyone in Canada wants Iginla to win a Cup, B) nobody anywhere likes Jeremy Jacobs, and C) the universe is cold and unfair. SO:

What I'd Want: Pittsburgh in seven.
What I'll Guess: Boston in six, and at least one Penguins star is sidelined by a dubious hit sometime during the series.

Western Conference

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

(Yes, I realize that this game has started before I could get home. DON'T TELL ME WHAT'S HAPPENING YET)

Be honest: the way that Game Seven unfolded, you thought the Joel Quenneville Curse was kicking back in, didn't you? I totally did. Those last five or ten minutes of gametime, especially... that one call, had me mentally preparing to watch a man unravel like a yanked sweater thread at the merciless cruelty of the fates that torment him.

What finally did pull Chicago through, despite an excellent shutdown series from Detroit, is their abundance of available firepower; the Hawks' defence core can manufacture additional offence with ease whenever they like, and their forward depth is just gross. So gross. The grossest.

(That said, full credit to Quenneville for adjusting as wisely as he did; that recomposition of the Toews-Kane-Sharp top line and Keith-Seabrook defensive pair for Game 5 turned the series around and saved his season. Probably also his job, too, the way the year's gone for coaches.)

They'll be up against arguably the best defence, and certainly the best goaltending, in the Playoffs to date; that said, however, I don't believe the Kings have enough left in 'em to hold Chicago off. If they'd closed out the Sharks earlier and had the extra few days of rest, it'd be a different story -- but with Chicago no less rested (who haven't even really seemed to start exerting themselves until a week ago, remember) and proving scarily capable of busting defensive schemes open, I think Quick will only be able to hold them off for so long.

What I'd Want: Chicago in seven.
What I'll Guess: Chicago in... ahh, what the heck, let's give 'em seven.


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