SPNHL Season 31: Playoff Round One Review/Round Two Preview
Three out of four ain’t bad, unless you were putting money on it. I got none of the game totals right, but we did eliminate four teams and are left with a very competitive final four. We’ve got the last two teams to win the stanley cup, the last two teams to win the President’s Trophy, an assortment of Hart Memorial, Rocket Richard, Art Ross, Lady Byng, Conn Smythe, and other trophies that you could fill the SPNHL Hall of Fame with (Pliskin, let’s get that started. We could build it in the middle of nowhere in Ontario).
Enough of the jokes though, we’re down to four teams: the dynasty known as the Colorado Avalanche, the Eastern powerhouse in the Tampa Bay Lightning, the well-balanced Vegas Golden Knights, and the dynamic offense of the New Jersey Devils. There’s an assortment of seed here, as the Avs were first in the west and are facing the third seeded Knights, while the East’s second seeded Devils are facing the fourth seeded Bolts. We saw some upsets on our way here, so let’s take a look at thow they came to be as we review round one.
Colorado Avalanche (1st) vs. Winnipeg Jets (4th)
Result: Avalanche win in 4 games.
The Avalanche were unstoppable, as their defense buried the Jets in a short 4 game series. The Avalanche only gave up 3 goals throughout the entire series, while putting up an astonishing 4.5 goals a game. The Jets knew the odds were against them, but a Colorado offense that laid dormant until the later part of the season came alive in the games that matter the most, and quickly eliminated the Winnipeg squad.
Anaheim Ducks (2nd) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3rd)
Result: Knights win in 5 games.
The Underducks (I can’t believe this stuck) put on a hell of a showing in the regular season, and we had a tied series after the first two games. However, the onslaught of the Knights was too much, as after a pair of one goal games, the Knights averaged 4 goals a game in their last 3 wins to put the Ducks out to pasture. It was a great season and a great story for the Ducks, but Vegas were undeniable on their path to break Colorado’s cup streak.
Philadephia Flyers (1st) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4th)
Result: Lightning win in 4 games.
The Flyers were pegged to be a favourite to go to the cup in the East, as they were dominant in the regular season and secured the top spot in the East. However, the Flyers were suspect to one of the biggest upsets in recent SPNHL history. The Lightning are a solid team who underperformed all season, and stepped it up in the playoffs to keep the Flyers to 5 goals in 4 game compared to their 13. Will the Bolts be able to keep up their defensive dominance?
New Jersey Devils (2nd) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd)
Result: New Jersey in 7 games.
This series was fucking exhausting. It was up and down from the get-go. Pittsburgh won the first game, then dropped the next three games to Jersey. Facing elimination, the Penguins played a strong defensive game, shutting the Devils out in game 5 and 6 to force a game 7. In a marquee Friday night matchup, the Devils overcame the Penguins with a 3-1 victory. Will the lack of rest benefit or harm the Devils, as they head into a tough defensive matchup against the Bolts?
I want to extend my thanks to the Ducks, the Jets, the Flyers, and the Penguins. All of you guys busted your asses to get into a playoff position and gave everything you had when it came down to it. Obviously you may not have gotten the results that you wanted, but take the loss in stride, look at what you accomplished, and see what you can do next time to avoid to reinvent your exit (sorry, jamming Underoath right now).
Enough about you losers (<3), let’s get to the conference finals.
Colorado Avalanche (1st) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3rd)
This one is gonna be the series to watch, as it features the last two teams to win the Stanley Cup in the SPNHL (Vegas in S27, Colorado in S28-S30). There’s an interesting story line here as Sliyum traded the majority of his team halfway through the season, keeping a core of Prodigy, Stoner, and Doug. He acquired two players who played against the Avalanche in the cup finals last season in NJ and GodsPlan, so Vegas will be relying on their familiarity in order to dethrone the champs.
Colorado: defense. Colorado lead the league with only 3 goals against in the previous round. Either their defensive system is that strong, or they just control the flow of the puck that much that the opposing team can’t get the puck in their zone. Nonetheless, the best defense is a great offense and when you have Egg and Sedin breaking it out to Go_Marc and Scoop, it’s hard to contend with that.
Vegas: offense. The Knights were second in their conference with 15 goals for and are averaging 3 a game. That number seems a bit average, but with offensive weapons like Prodigy, Stoner, NJ, and Frenchy, it’s only a matter of time until they click and start firing on all cylinders. It might be tough against the reigning champions, but it’s very much possible.
Colorado: familiarity. The Knights have a group of players who are familiar with the Avs playing style, and if Vegas can retain their composure, they can counter it effectively. Very few teams are as aggressive and overwhelm teams as much as Colorado, so Vegas needs to do their homework and develop a strategy to counteract it. If they can do this, the Avalanche might be in trouble.
Vegas: Defense. Vegas really needs to tighten up in their end of the ice against a very strong Colorado system. They need to be putting pressure on the Avs and fight fire with fire, matching their aggressiveness and cutting off their zone entries. If they don’t do this, it’ll be a walk in the park for Colorado as they march on to their fourth consecutive title in the SPNHL.
Advantage: As challenging of team that Vegas will be to the Avalanche, the series will still go to Colorado. The Colorado system is a dangerous one that nobody has been able to crack the code to yet, and unfortunately for Silyum, this team won’t be the one to. Their team is strong, and they’ll be able to put up a great fight against the dynasty, but expect Colorado to take 4 close wins in a highly competitive series.
Prediction: Colorado in 5.
New Jersey Devils (2nd) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4th)
I’m very excited for this series, as it features two completely different tales from the first round: a team who was able to get it’s work done quickly against a team who went the distance. The regular season series between the two teams was fairly even, and now brings us to what should be an intense playoff series. Will the Bolts finally make it to the Stanley Cup finals, or will the story of “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” continue for TrueLegend and the Lightning?
New Jersey: offense. They did play seven games in the first round, but the Devils are the highest scoring team out of the remaining four. Getting contributions from Rich, Grammy, Serv, and DD (I got a hatty in a game and didn’t do much else), the Devils have four solid forwards who can score when needed. Whether it be a pretty passing play or a garbage goal, the Devils know how to get it done.
Tampa Bay: goaltending. Tampa underperformed offensively all season, but were able to excel due to the performance of a strong goaltending duo in Vince and Back. The two backstoppers kept the offensive powerhouse in Philadelphia to 5 goals in their first round after averaging over 3 goals a game in the regular season. They’ll need to do the same against a dangerous Devils offense if Tampa wants to move within 4 wins of the Stanley Cup.
New Jersey: consistency. It plagued us again and I’ll keep writing home about it until it changes. After winning 3 games in a row, the Devils were shutout in games 5 and 6 as they went from one win away from advancing to one win away from elimination. If they don’t keep a rhythm against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bolts will make short work of the Devils and result in another playoff disappointment for Jersey.
Tampa Bay: offense. The Lightning are usually an offensive juggernaut, but have been uncharacteristically quiet on the offensive front this season, while focusing on a defense-first philosophy. It’s one of the first times we’ve seen TrueLegend not in the scoring race, and with strong forwards like Dominando and Aali around him, it’s very odd to see such a low goal total from him and his team. They’ll have to keep up the momentum from their first round if they want to beat the Devils.
Advantage: Tampa’s regular season wasn’t so impressive, but their performance in the first round was. The Devils had the opposite, where their first round performance was quite underwhelming in comparison to their regular season performance. However, the Devils have a very capable team at all ends of the ice, and one that will be able to outperform a strong Bolts team. I believe in my own team, or I’m biased as fuck. You pick.
Prediction: New Jersey in 6.
I really wish I always had as nice and as productive of an environment to write these articles as I do right now (on a train coming back from Ottawa). However, not everything is as easy as you would like it to be, and this weeke will be no exception for our four remaining teams. All these teams have very potent offenses that are supported by a strong defensive core (except TB, suck it Noto) and have excellent goaltending, so if you can catch a Twitch stream in between getting clamped in LG, you should definitely tune in. There’s no hockey like playoff hockey because playoff hockey is sweaty like a desert marathon.
Eight more wins, clowns. You gotta win eight more games and you get a chance to virtually hoist the SPNHL Stanley Cup. Four of them are gonna come this week as you battle to see who the best team in your conference is. Don’t go for the highlight reel goals or try to cripple somebody with a hit, play an effective team game at both ends of the ice and you’ll find yourself one step close to championship glory.
Sorry for the lack of a show this past Saturday, Kozmo was sick and I was busy breaking my TV after watching that disappointing Leafs performance against the Coyotes. Hopefully we will be able to bring you another episode of SPNHL: Off the Ice as we recap the conference finals and get ready for the Cup finals.
To all the remaining teams, good luck. Let’s leave it all on the ice.