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As is DFO custom, interested parties have been surveyed for their favourite team’s chances to survive the first round on their way to win the best trophy in pro sports. Tonight we survey the Western Conference.
As always, opinions are those of the individual authors. If it’s unattributed, then I did it.
Still – fuck the Leafs. Oh, it’s the Western Conference – well, then fuck Ryan Kesler.
Los Ángeles Kings – (Preview by Balls)
Los Reyes had an interesting regular season. They started off slowly and then started playing a little better towards the end of the year. They finished fourth in the tough Pacific Division with 98 points, which is good but not great.
In fact, it was only good for a Wild Card berth in the tough Western Conference. As a result, the Kings face off against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Luckily enough, I saw the Kings host the Knights in the first ever meeting between the two teams at Staples Center in December.
The game was a close physical contest and I fully expect this entire series to be this way. The first game ended in OT with a Vegas win and subsequent games made the season slate even: 1 regulation win and 1 OT win for each team.
Another thing that was interesting is that there were a LOT of Vegas fans at Staples and they were… feisty. Whereas Ducks fans and Kings fans generally get along, this was not the case with Vegas fans. A couple of fights almost broke out.
I say this series will go 7 games and it will be a thrilling series with a lot of bad blood on and off the ice. Just because Vegas has home ice advantage, I give them the edge, but I would not be surprised if the Kings pull the upset.
No matter what, at the end of this series, the old phrase will be appropriate: The King is Dead, Long Live the King! Also this:
Winnipeg Jets – Litre_Cola
This has been an unbelievable season up in the coldest city in the NHL. I can truly tell you that when the Jets are good in the Peg it makes -40 C days feel a bit warmer. The last and only time that the Jets 2.0 were in the playoffs they were swept by the Mighty Ducks ( I still call them that) but the Jets led in all 4 games.
When the Jets added Paul Stastny from the Blues at the trade deadline he was the 1st ever player to waive a no-trade clause to go to Winnipeg. It was a coup so to speak as no one in their right mind would want to go there if they had a choice. The team as it is presently constructed is very young except for a few holdovers from the Atlanta Thrasher days (Little, Enstrom, Buff, Chiarot was drafted by them) The plan has always been that Winnipeg has to build via the draft because high calibre free agents do not want to play there. The majority of their players are a mix of Canadians and a bunch of Americans from Minny, Michigan, (Connor, Copp, Hendricks, Wheeler, Byfuglien, Trouba, Hellebuyck) who feel right at home in a frigid winter. For instance Big Buff is an avid ice fisherman and All Star breaks are his time on the lakes. I think that heli-icefishing would be a good time especially and you know the “shack” they flew to was fancy.
This team is deep, like really deep. There have been numerous injuries that in the past would have derailed a more fragile team but in the absences of Scheiffele, Trouba, Enstrom etc they just kept on cruising. They did have a stroke of luck a couple years ago when the ping pong ball fell right for them and they landed Patrick Laine. He has 0 issue being in Manitoba as he seems to have a video game addiction and he is Finnish so the climates are basically the same. By adding Stastny at the deadline they have 2 number 1 lines in Wheeler-Scheif-Connor, Laine-Stastny- Ehlers which is a matchup nightmare for other clubs. They got rid of the slow plodding wingers on the club last season and replaced them with skilled players who are hard nosed and tough to play against. (Roslovic, Dano, Armia)
Due to Gary Bettman being an international disgrace, the Jets will run in to the other freight train Nashville in the 2nd round. Jets have the 2nd most points in the conference but Bettman thinks that this playoff format is great. It is not. The barn in downtown Winnipeg is the smallest in the league but it has been packed since the Jets came back to town.
In closing the Jets will go as far as Connor Hellebuyck will take them. He broke Tom Barrasso’s record this season for wins by an American netminder in his 1st full season. This is just the beginning for the Jets as they are deep and they are young. Feel free to jump on the bandwagon as they are a fun team to watch and Laine’s beard is ridiculous.
Two years ago, the Predators got to the second round versus the Sharks, which they lost in seven games. Before the start of the next season, they traded cornerstone defenceman Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for locker room malcontent (read: non-francophone black guy) P.K. Subban, and boy did that take them to the next level. Last year they went to the Finals but lost to the Penguins, and this year they won the President’s Trophy for best record. Going into this year’s Cup run, they are the prohibitive favourite.
[Mind you, the last three President’s Trophy winners were the Capitals, Rangers & Bruins – who won zero Cups. If you add in the Blackhawks, Canucks & Sharks, going all the way back to 2009 only one Trophy winner has also hoisted the Cup.]
Subban has turned into the all-world player he was meant to be, and the Preds have built the rest of the defence around him. On offence, Filip Forsberg anchors a three-line rotation that doesn’t wow anyone with massive numbers, but across the board has equal numbers of points. They have the ability to rotate guys out but keep coming at you full-speed. When injuries started affecting them towards the end of the season, they lured old man Mike Fisher out of Carrie Underwood’s bed to make one last run at a Cup.
Much like Winnipeg, Nashville plays in a smaller arena, which makes for a fantastic atmosphere. I was witness to the “Smashville” mentality during that Sharks series a couple years ago, and it was infectious. Inside the arena, people know their hockey, and if you’re Canadian & live where a player played junior they will ask you educated questions that you’d better be able to answer. (In my case, it was questions about Shea Weber, who I had watched play for the Kelowna Rockets.) They are a team that one would want to support winning their first Cup.
As litre_cola states above, fuck Gary Bettman for his playoff format forcing the Jets & Preds to have to play in the second round, because these are my two favourite teams in the Conference, and it’ll be a shame they have to meet before the Conference Finals, because that would be a barnburner for the Campbell Trophy.
Colorado Avalanche – Litre_Cola
That city smells of weed and hosts a kick ass punk festival. I could not name 1 of their D-men, MacKinnon is the real deal, and how the fuck is Blake Comeau still in the league? Does Yakupov play there now? I do hope they beat the Preds so those guys are gone.
The Minnesota Wild are a hockey team with a terrible name that play hockey in the NHL.
They are doomed to fall to the Winnipeg Jets, and thus are unworthy of further consideration.
Las Vegas Golden Knights – theeWeeBabySeamus
Since this is really no longer a post-season preview (Vegas took a 1-0 series lead last night on LA in case you missed it) I thought it might be interesting to even go way further back and look at a random PRE-season write up, with predictions and everything, and look at how the Golden Knights fared against expectations. It might not be interesting, I’ll admit. YMMV. Let’s find out together, shall we? (Their predictions are in bold, my commentary follows).
1 – The average number of wins for the last four NHL expansion teams is 24, and the Golden Knights will surpass that mark. Not only did they surpass it, they more than doubled it, shattering the previous points record for an expansion franchise (83, FLA ’93). Not bad.
2 – The Golden Knights will not finish last in the Pacific Division. They surely did not. A Pacific Division Championship in their inaugural season. They even had a real shot at a Presidents Trophy, but stumbled a little bit down the stretch. Still though….Not bad.
3 – Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will discover a fountain of youth. Hell yeah, he did. SV%: .927. GAA: 2.24. Record – 29-13-4. Very not bad. Fleury was easily the team’s MVP this season. As he goes, so go the Knights. If nothing else, last night’s 1-0 shutout in Game 1 should prove that. More on the Knights’ goal tending situation to follow next, because….
4 – Backup goalie Calvin Pickard will post a winning record. Well, this one is wrong on a couple of counts. First, Pickard never played a game for Vegas. He got optioned, then traded to the Leafs’ organization when the Knights picked up Malcom Subban off waivers in early October. But he did post a winning record for Toronto’s AHL affiliate so, kind of right….? Subban was definitely the better choice, fwiw. And he’s proven it. SV%: .910. GAA: 2.68. Record: 13-4-2. (Calvin who?)
5 – The Golden Knights will win the opener tonight in Dallas. They did. Their first franchise victory was a 2-1 win at Dallas. Which is great because fuck the Stars. I hate that team. GO BACK TO MINNESOTA YOU JERKWEEDS!!!!!
6- Vegas also will win its home opener on Tuesday. They did. Their first home victory was a 5-2 pasting of the Coyotes. But then again everybody beat up on the ‘Yotes this year. And most other years, too. Jeebus, since I left the desert out there, that place has just gone to shit.
7 – The first Golden Knights home stand will be a winning one. Whooooo boy!!!! Was it ever. Already with a 2-0-0 start to the season on the road, the Knights went home on October 10th and played 7 straight in their new home. Including the win mentioned above vs Arizona, they proceed to go 6-1-0 on that home stand, pretty much putting the league on notice that they weren’t planning on just being an expansion team. Very, very not bad.
8 – Center Vadim Shipachyov will lead the team in scoring. Possibly the wrongest of these predictions, but it’s not the writer’s fault on this one. The prima donna Russian didn’t like that the Knights were gonna send him to the minors four games into the season. Sooooo…. he went AWOL and didn’t report. The Knights terminated his contract and now he’s back playing in Russia. Dumbass. That being said, the Knights do have balanced (if not always overpowering) scoring. William Carlsson far and away led the team with 43 goals, but they’ve got a lot of guys who can find the back of the net, including five others with 20+ goals this season.
9 – Defenseman Deryk Engelland will lead the team in penalty minutes. Not even close. Engelland actually behaved himself this year more or less. The Knights’ “goons” turned out to be a triumverate of Colin Miller(D), Brayden McNabb(D) and David Perron(LW). Now I’ve put “goons” in quotes because in spite the fact that all three of those guys had 20+ penalties and 50+ penalty minutes, none of them even ranks in the top 40 in the league of either category. The Knights are very nice boys. Sometimes to a fault. Time to bring these guys in I think.
10 – Half these predictions will be wrong. See, now there you go selling yourself short, Mr. Random Internet Hockey Writer whom I’ve never heard of before this morning. Even missing on this one here (which technically you did, sorry), you went 6-4. And I can’t really blame you on the Shipachyov and Engelland predictions. So we’ll give you half credit on both and call it 7-3. But wow, that Pickard prediction was kinda stupid. But still…not bad.
Bottom line: The Knights will go as far as Fleury and Subban can take them. Knights in 6
Whaddya think, Mr. Perron?
Yeah, I thought you’d like that.
The Anaheim Ducks had the quietest 100-point season I can recall, but surely that’s not the fault of current Ducks Media & Communications Manager. & former Beerguyrob drinking buddy, Steve Hoem. That they are in the playoffs at all is a testament to their management, as not a single player played a full 82-game schedule this year; only three of them even made 80 games played. But as long as they have Corey Perry & Ryan Getzlaf the Ducks are always a threat to advance.
What they lack in goal production they make up for by starving the other team into submission. In net, Ryan Miller is now playing goalie for a team with a competent defence, and it shows in his 2.35 GAA in 28 games played, so he’s a fantastic 1-B option behind John Gibson. The defence in front of him is what helped keep the goals-allowed number so low, because their defence is able to push guys outside & away from the net, so most shots are seen before they get to the net.
They are favoured against the Sharks, but all that goes away if the Sharks can get a win in Anaheim to start the series. The Ducks have a stellar reputation for getting bounced out of the playoffs earlier than expected, and this season could be no exception if Gibby & Miller revert to their norm. It should be Ducks in five, but could also be Sharks in six if they’re not careful.
Also, Chip Kelly is worried that Chris Kelly might take a “siesta” during the playoffs and finds his complexion to be a little too “refried” to be carrying the pure and noble Kelly surname. Randy Carlyle has yet to return his calls about cutting Chris,and expanding Derek Grant’s role at Center.
Sharks – because I am old & lazy, I am repeating part of sunrisesunrise’s contribution from last year. My contributions are in italics, like this blurb here. Sue me.
San Jose: sunrisesunrise
They lost to Penguins in the Finals
a two years ago. They were slower than the Pens. A lot slower. And even I knew that it was a miracle they won the game they did.
They kept the same core and wrecked shop for the first half of the 2017-18 season. Then, it stopped working. Martin Jones became average. Joe Thornton turned out to be operating on pixie dust last year because his stats are down across the board.
Then Logan Couture decided to stop a Brent Burns shot with his teeth. Guess how that turned out. He missed the last two weeks and will look like a college hockey player while wearing a cage. (And will have jaw surgery and teeth removal in the offseason.) And for good measure, Thornton got his knee bent backwards in a meaningless game against the meaningless Canucks. He and Couture* are game time decisions for game 1. hasn’t played since January 23rd, but is still practicing with the team in hopes of getting into the lineup to be a pylon for Silfverberg.
They still have Tomas Hertl, but somehow only got him 46 points. They traded for Evander Kane, who did that Evander Kane this of his where he starts off like gangbusters but then goes to shit 10 games later. They limped into the playoffs losing four of their last five, albeit after finishing a nine-game Bettman-point enhanced winning streak.
To summarize: old, slow team got older and slower. If they make it past the
Oilers Ducks, Jones will have stepped up and a few of the non-stars will shine.
Hartford Whalers (by Rikki-Tikki-Deadly)
After the Montreal Canadiens won 16 Stanley Cup titles in a span of 26 years, the sporting world was consumed by the question of whether we would ever see a run of such dominance again. Now, after the Hartford Whalers take aim at their 23rd title since 1991, the question has become: why did we ever think the Canadiens run was such a big deal in the first place? The roster of this year’s Whalers team reads, yet again, like an all-star ballot. After spending the bulk of the season sitting on the bench “so the younger players could get some ice time” team captain Alexander Ovetchkin is fully healthy and has looked surprisingly sharp in the half-dozen tune-up games he played during the Whalers’ season-ending twenty game win streak.
While head coach Wayne Gretzky’s controvertial “high-five” attacking strategy found dual goalies Pekka Rinne and Carey Price looking somewhat confused at the beginning of the season, the system eventually gelled and the Whalers’ effectively saved the NHL by boosting scoring to levels that started to rival most football games – which was perfectly timed to coincide with the collapse of the NFL. Similarly, the league’s attempt to restore parity by realigning the Whalers into the Western Conference backfired as the team simply split its roster into East and West Coast squads with only a few players making the occasional cross-country trip.
The split also offered more opportunities for individual players to ring up stats. During his record-setting run in January, forward Sidney Crosby did his hometown of…wait, let me just Google…wait. President Trump? Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. [checks portal gun] What the fuck? What fucking reality is this?
So there you have it, your Western Conference teams. I like the Jets, Predators & the Whalers out of this Conference, and it’s a goddamned Bettman shame that the Preds & Jets will inevitably meet in the second round. I was born the year after the Leafs won their last Cup, and God-willing I’ll go into the ground an old man before they win another.