SPNHL Season 28: Round One Recap/Round Two Preview
“And then there were four…”
14 teams have fallen. Some of those teams were at the bottom of the standings all season long, and some were riding high going into the playoffs. Anything can happen once the regular season is done, and we were witness to an exciting first round. We saw new stars emerge and some stars fall, so let’s take a closer look at what happened in the first round of the SPNHL Playoffs.
MATCHUP 1: COLORADO AVALANCHE (1) VS. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (4).
VICTORS: COLORADO AVALANCHE.
The Avalanche continued their regular season dominance into the playoffs, defeating the Blackhawks in 5 games. Colorado stayed strong defensively, only allowing 2 goals per game while scoring 3.8 goals per game. Woytkiw was a monster for the Avs, scoring 2 goals per game and putting up 11 points in the series, while also being supported by toslick who accumulated 10 points
MATCHUP 2: DALLAS STARS (2) VS. MINNESOTA WILD (3).
VICTORS: MINNESOTA WILD.
Very few people expected the Four Horsemen to get swept, but the Wild came to this series with all guns blazing. After a modest regular season performance, Minnesota exploded with offense in their first round matchup. The Four Horsemen were shut down and HartySauce and Sudzy had an offensive explosion, each averaging 4 points or more per game.
MATCHUP 1: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (1) VS. OTTAWA SENATORS (4).
VICTORY: OTTAWA SENATORS.
The Bolts and the Sens were the only teams to play 7 games in the first round, but it was the Senators who got the advantage in the end. The Senators capitalized on their power play opportunities and killed off penalties at an exceptional rate, which was a big contributor to their success. Add in phenomenal goaltending, and Ottawa was able to squeak out a very tight series with a game 7 victory.
MATCHUP 2: NEW YORK ISLANDERS (2) VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (3).
VICTORS: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS.
The Islanders had all the weapons up front that they needed, but the Penguins stayed true to their form and played a solid defensive game. The Penguins allowed only 2 goals per game, while scoring 3.2 goals per game. Their penalty kill was sensational at 88.9%, and big offensive contributions from Jayscott and Ajax were instrumental in a 4-1 Pittsburgh series victory.
Looking back at the first round, it was hard to predict many of the series. Every team that made it into these playoffs had a legitimate chance to make it to the next round. I want to congratulate Dallas, Chicago, New York, and (blank) for a hell of a season. However, we still have 3 series left to go. Let’s take a look at what should be two very exciting Conference finals.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
COLORADO AVALANCHE (1) VS. MINNESOTA WILD (3).
Minnesota was expected to do well at the beginning of the season, but it seemed like they were on the wrong path. Having rerouted their progress, the Wild find themselves in the conference finals against the President’s Trophy winning Colorado Avalanche. This matchup is a clash of styles to a tee, so let’s take a look at each team’s arsenal and their keys to success (cue DJ Khaled).
Woytkiw and Toslick shined in the first round for the Avs, but their forward core is incredibly deep and includes Stamkos, Boutch, and poitraz. Eggman and Sedinpower are an incredibly effective defense tandm who can contribute at both end of the ice, and with Rancher playing lights out like he has all season long, Colorado has all the tools to make it to the cup.
If the Avalanche want to win, they need to maintain that structure that they have all season long. This will not be an easy series for either team, but if Colorado sticks to their defensive guns, it might be easier for them.
HartySauce and Sudzy lit it up in the first round for the Wild, but Arrowhunter and Fivestar each played great supporting roles to a dangerous duo. Tommyboii and Onetimer shut it down on D, rounding out a solid group of skaters. With goalieman taking care of business between the pipes, and Minnesota may have a squad worthy of contending for the cup.
If the Wild want to win, their offense is going to need to be at the top of their game. If they can utilize their speed and creativity to break past a stagnant Avalanche defense as often as they can, they will ensure a victory in the series.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (3) VS. OTTAWA SENATORS (4).
It’s a battle of the underdogs! The latter-seeded teams both won their first-round matchups. With the Penguins dominating the Islanders in 4 games and the Senators grinding out the Lightning in 7 games, we have a tale of two very different paths to these finals, and a battle of two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum: a defensive juggernaut and a scrappy offensive unit.
The Penguins were lead by Jayscott, Capone, dufresne, and dominado upfront, shutting down most of the offense at the centre ice. With Gonzo and Ajax putting in great work at D., and Vezina-winner Speedyturtle doing the netminding, the Penguins have a chance to right the wrongs from last season’s Stanley Cup final and bring the cup back to the Burgh,
If the Penguins want to win, they need to contain the Sens. Ottawa has a very dynamic squad, so a hard forecheck and good in zone positioning will be key to creating turnovers and scoring chances. Play like that, and the Pens will win.
5 different forwards contributed for the Sens in the first round: Marc, Ransom, Grammy, Muse, and Dirty-D (bay-bee). Their depth up front is matched with Fox and Noto’s solid defensive ability, as well as a trio of highly-capable goaltending with Shadow, Kozmo, and Kamakaze. Kozmo took a team to the finals two seasons ago and will be looking to do the same with this squad.
If the Senators want to win, they need to wear down the Pens. Make them work hard to get the puck away from them and take advantage of a physically and mentally fatigued team. Accomplish this, and Ottawa will win the East.
As we enter the last two weeks of the season, we will see a level of competition unprecedented over the course of the past two months. The goals will be more spectacular, the hits will be bigger, and the saves will be more desperate. There will be elating wins, heartbreaking losses, and at the end of this week, two teams will emerge with a 50/50 chance to be the SPNHL Season 28 Champions.
Best of luck to all involved!