SPNHL, Season 32: Playoff Preview.
Man, I need to start another playthrough of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It’s easily got my pick as the greatest game of all time. Now that I’ve got some more free time, maybe I’ll get this going… oh fuck.
After five weeks of intensity, dedication, challenges, and perseverance, we’ve narrowed the field of twelve teams down to eight as they vie for a chance to call themselves Stanley Cup Champions. We’ve seen teams like Tampa Bay and Vancouver prioritize offense and emerge as top contenders, and we’ve seen teams like the Kings and the Leafs build a reputation based on strong defensive play and standout goaltending.
While those four teams have emerged as the top seeds in each conference, last year’s Stanley Cup finalists are the third seed in their respective conferences. Then we saw battles come down to the final games for the fourth seed in each conference, as the Jets beat the Predators for the final seed in the West while the Penguins outlasted the Capitals to claim the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While we have our eight teams who are competing for the Cup, I’d like to thank all the players on the Capitals, the Predators, the Oilers, and the Rangers. They faced a lot of difficulties this season but they persevered until the end of the season, and are now rewarded with a high pick in the draft next season. This doesn’t guarantee success though, so you’ve gotta use them wisely and develop a solid draft strategy and develop chemistry if you want a chance to succeed in the league.
So, let’s focus on our first round matchups. We’ll look at the starting lineups and see each team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4).
The Lightning have been a force to be reckoned with all season, with their top line of Stoner, Stamkos, and either Full Melt or Legendary putting up exceptional numbers resulting in a potent offense and this season’s President’s Trophy. Uber and Ajax have paired nicely at D in front of a solid goaltending duo in Dafoumanchew and Rancher, but Ajax’s availability may be an issue that could cost Tampa this series.
Conversely, Pittsburgh’s gritty work ethic has been their staple for their tenure under Turdburgler and Pliskin, relying on hard forechecking and physicality to win games. Freeze and TragicMagic play the big bodies well, while Arrowhunter and JMM have been able to handle scoring duties. Pliskin’s pairing with either Monokuuu or Baseballmike has resulted in a lot of penalty minutes and a string of decent performances in net from Turd has lead them into the playoffs.
Tampa has the advantage in offense for sure, but the lack of Ajax may give the defensive advantage to the Penguins. Turd is a solid playoff goaltender, but Dafoumanchew’s comeback season has put him in a good position entering the playoffs. This series will be a battle of talent against tenacity, and no matter how much skill the Lightning have, I feel the Penguins are a different animal come playoffs and will get the victory in a hard-fought seven-game series.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 7.
Toronto Maple Leafs (2) vs. New Jersey Devils (3).
In his rookie season as a GM, Shadow has built a very respectable team that amassed a great goal differential. This illustrated their solid back-end of Noto and Norris finalist GodsPlan playing in front of Shadow. This complemented their very dangerous top line of NJ, Serv, and Lady Byng finalist MrBean. The Leafs look primed to may it back to the Cup Finals if they can get past the defending champs.
The Devils were an offensive force last season and shifted their focus to defense this season, with a core of defensive forwards including your’s truly, SmokeShowJoe, and Saunter to support the dynamic offense of Oriole and Sleepeh. Rich had a less explosive regular season, but emerged as a solid defensive option along with Bergy and NowYoDead in New Jersey. With Turtle holding down the pipes and Saunter capable as well, the Devils have a chance to go back to back.
The battle of the past two Prince of Wales champions will be one of two perspectives: offense versus defense. The offense-first focus of the Leafs with a breakout quarterbacked by a Norris candidate will be met head-on with a defense first focus of the Devils spearheaded by a line of goons (and a Selke candidate). The old saying is that offense wins games and defense wins championships, and I might be a bit biased, but I hope it rings true this series.
Prediction: New Jersey in 6.
Los Angeles Kings (1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (4).
I’ll be honest, I might be a bit biased here because a lot of my closest friends play for the Kings, but my archenemy does too. Los Angeles has a dangerous top line of Fluri, Yesse, and PistolPete (BRO), while playing in front of a championship caliber defensive pairing of DBS and Jamiebenn. And then there’s Chad the Bitch. A perennial Vezina and Hart candidate, he’s the backbone of a stupidly good Los Angeles squad.
After a special Sunday night game against Nashville, the Jets found their spot in the playoffs. Reap and Kid faced a tumultuous season but made a bunch of great moves that resulted in them building a solid team around them. They found chemistry with Cupidon on their top line and a fortified blue line with Shayne and Beaster, Their goaltending duties are handled by Steeler, who Reap has said “lives on the edge”.
Off the bat, the advantage in goaltending is clear to see, as Chad is a worldly goaltender while Steeler is a defender. Defense might go to the Kings as well, with a Norris winner on their blueline. The offense is hard to place, but Cupidon is a top five player in this league (as evidenced by his past two seasons) and may be the x-factor in this series. However, I said I might be biased, and I believe that defense wins championships, so I’m giving the advantage to Los Angeles in this series.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 5.
Vancouver Canucks (2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3).
Triix’s return to GM has been quite fruitful, as he has recaptured some of the magic from Philadelphia two seasons ago and found another dynamic top line with Fishhure and the Hart favourite in Bstieboy. They’ve emerged as one of the most dynamic lines in the league in front of a defensive core that includes At-Ezz, Redconcept, and Shepard. With Fivestar handling goaltending duties with POOPY BRUINS as his backup, the Canucks have built a deep, talented squad with championship potential.
The Knights were predicted by many to win the Stanley Cup after Sliyum traded for the first overall pick and used it to pick Sedinpower. They didn’t have the strongest draft, with Defenestrate being one of the few remaining Knights from the beginning of the season. However, they traded for some pieces to form one of the best top 6’s in the league including Francey, U12bme/Jason, and the offensive game-changer in Sudzy. Their top 6 is one of the strongest in the league, and may prove to be prophetic of the predictions prior to the season.
This battle of the West Coast will be highly offensive, and it’s gonna come down to which team has more weapons. The top line of Triix, Bstie, and Fish is one that is hard to stop, but the offensive prowess possessed by Sudzy and Defenestrate backed up by the offensive defenders in Sedin and Jason will prove too much for the Canucks to handle, especially when the Knights have the advantage in goaltending. This shootout is gonna be a lengthy one, but Vegas will succeed in the end.
Prediction: Knights in 6.
Well, this was a lengthy one but it was worth it. Sorry for missing the article last week, I studied my ass off but I got a 78 on the exam so it was all worth it.
Now, we’re in the thick of it. Three weeks of busting your ass with the hopes of becoming the SPNHL champions. This is where all the chemistry that has been developed, all the moves that have been made, all of it comes down to this. These series will remove the pretenders from the contenders, and may even provide us with some memorable upsets. You never know when it comes to the SPNHL.
Nonetheless, we’ll be recapping all the action from the first round of the SPNHL playoffs this weekend on SPNHL: Off the Ice! Join, Koz, Plisk, Reap, an assortment of guests and I as we talk about our playoff highs and lows, talk shit about each other, and discuss the second round matchups. Either that, or we’ll just rant consecutively for an hour. That’s usually how it works.
Regardless, good luck to everybody this week, and we’ll see you on the ice!